Africa Working Group Report

BRIEF REPORT ON THE AFRICA PROGRAM OF THE WORLD PEACE FORUM 2006
BY MARGARET AKULIA

Participants attending the Africa Program of the World Peace Forum 2006 engaged in discussions pertaining to the search for peace in Africa.

On Friday, June 23, 2006 a Networking Session leading to the Opening Ceremonies of the World Peace Forum 2006 was held at the Vancouver Public Library for delegates to the World Peace Forum 2006, friends and allies of Africa from all walks of life and Africans in the Diaspora.   An Informal Discussion Circle modeled after a common tradition among many African tribes for families and communities to gather around an open log fire to educate younger generations through story telling and/or to resolve issues facing communities, provided the impetus for heated debates about current issues facing Africa.  Several themes were highlighted during the informal discussions including but not limited to a) the role of government in peace and war b) the Western dominated media’s negative portrayal of Africa and Africans and resulting erroneous perceptions of Africa and Africans c) HIV/AIDS and Health d) Women and Children e) Peace Education f) The Labor Union movement in Africa g) How African people maintain peace in their communities h) the Economic Exploitation of Africa by western countries i) Poverty j) Economic Development k) Youth l) etc. 

On Saturday, June 24, 2006 participants attended various sessions and events organized by other Working Groups as well as the Peace Walk and Festival ‘NO WAR NOWHERE’ and the concert ‘TOWARDS A WORLD WITHOUT LANDMINES’. 

Sunday, June 25, 2006 was the culmination of the Africa Working Group’s tireless efforts to raise African voices in order to put African peace and justice issues on the World Peace Forum 2006 agenda and beyond. An event titled ‘AFRICA PEACE DAY’ held at International House on the campus of the University of British Columbia featured presentations by a Panel of Frontline Activists who provided the focal points and additional themes for more heated debates.  A video titled ‘UGANDA RISING’ provided “a glimpse” into the horrific atrocities being committed against children and innocent civilians in Northern Uganda.  The video included interviews by Peace Activist Betty Bigombe who has been involved in attempting to Broker a Peace Deal between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Rebel group operating out of Northern Uganda. A Roundtable Discussion gave participants including ones that had been touched personally by the War in Northern Uganda, the genocide in Rwanda and other wars in Africa an opportunity to contribute to the discussion by sharing lived experiences and for the presenters to field questions.  The Roundtable Discussion also provided an opportunity for participants to expand on and “dissect” themes that emerged from discussions held at the Networking Session on Friday, June 23, 2006.  Topics covered by the presenters and participants during the event on Sunday, June 25, 2006 included but were not limited to a) visits to war torn Northern Uganda b) Lessons from the Peace and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa after apartheid c) Lessons from the Peace and Reconciliation Process in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide d)   Lessons from other African countries e) Lessons from the Christian Coalition of the Congo f) Democracy in Africa g) Where do we go from here?

A third event held at the Canadian Memorial Centre for Peace on Monday, June 26, 2006, provided participants with the opportunity to participate in two workshops titled, ‘FROM CANADA TO AFRICA: THE DIASPORAS CONTRIBUTION TO PEACE BUILDING IN AFRICA’ and ‘FROM AFRICA TO CANADA; BUILDING PEACE IN AFRICA:  A LESSON FOR CANADA AND THE WORLD’.  The two workshops included a) a Presentation on Peace Processes; Diasporas and Peace building:  How African Diaspora Communities Build Peace amongst themselves in host countries/countries of asylum and arising thematic issues b) Powerful stories by survivors turned activists – individuals who speak to the advantage of first generation Africans having legal statuses as citizens of countries of the West (Canada, USA, France, England, etc) while maintaining cultural and social connections and relations in Africa in contributing to peace in Africa) c) a Presentation on how a Canadian Non Governmental Organization  is drawing on and adapting indigenous knowledge such as the millennia old African method of teaching through Folk Stories to teach Peacemaking in several African countries through Folk Stories d) Drumming and Dancing, illustrating the power of music in Peace Making.  Another Roundtable Discussion gave participants an opportunity to continue contributing to the discussion on peace in Africa and for the presenters to field questions.  An African healing dance, which is part of Peace Reconciliation Processes practiced in Africa, marked the conclusion of the Monday event along with resolutions that arose from the Africa Program of the World Peace Forum 2006.

Participants in all of the events organized as part of the Africa Program of the World Peace Forum 2006 were encouraged to access a website www.africapeaceforum.com that is being used as a tool to a) provide additional information about the vision of the Africa Working Group of the World Peace Forum 2006 b) continue the dialogue that arose from events organized as part of the Africa Program of the World Peace Forum 2006 c) facilitate forging forward with an agenda that is “piggybacking” on the momentum generated by the noble vision of the World Peace Forum 2006, to address issues and themes identified by the Africa Working Group of the World Peace Forum 2006 and Participants of the Africa Program of the World Peace Forum as critical to peace and social justice in Africa d) gain access to a more in-depth report outlining the proceedings of events organized as part of the Africa Program of the World Peace Forum 2006, along with information on presenters, performers, participants, ideas, strategies and resolutions generated through the various discussions.

On Tuesday, June 27, 2006 and Wednesday, June 28, 2006, participants attended various sessions and events organized by other Working Groups, as well as the Closing Ceremonies. 
The Africa Working Group of the World Peace Forum 2006 looks forward to continuing to form alliances with Peoples of the World who subscribe to the noble vision of the World Peace Forum 2006 and incorporating ideas, strategies and resolutions generated through the many discussions that were part of the forum into its vision and work.  The group hopes to obtain answers to questions that reverberated throughout events organized as part of the Africa Program of the World Peace Forum 2006, which included but were not limited to a) what is Peace for Africa?  b) Who is making/building peace in Africa?  c) Is peace possible in Africa and for Africans? All participants who spoke up gave a resounding “yes” to the last question.  However, all agreed that it will take work and a concerted effort by the global community to join hands with Africa and Africans in realizing Peace in Africa.