BY FATOU TOURAY
The Women’s Platform for Peace in Casamance celebrated World Peace Day in the form of a conference at the Hotel Aubert in Ziguinchor, republic of Senegal.
A delegation from the Gambia, headed by Madam Hannah Foster, Executive Director of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies and representatives from civil society attended the conference. Also delegations from the government and civil society of Guinea Bissau were present.
In his opening remarks, Seedou Sanneh, deputizing for the governor of Ziguinchor, said he will start his speech with a quote by Ban ki Moon on International World Peace Day: “Let us all work together to help all human beings achieve dignity and equality; to build a greener planet; and to make sure no one is left behind.”
Mr. Sanneh added that he started with that quote to show the importance of the day. He said peace is very important in the development of any society because without peace there cannot be any meaningful development. He said 178 countries are signatories to the universal sustainable development of the UN which was established in 1981, but since its inception 35 years ago, people are still negotiating for peace.
“I commend the Women’s Platform for their tremendous efforts to bring an ever lasting solution to peace in Casamance not only the women’s platform but also women all over the world because they are peace lovers and peace makers too though they suffer the brunt of the havoc caused by violence. As we celebrate world peace day today I hope and pray that today marks the end to violence worldwide and the sustenance of peace for eternity,” said Mr. Sanneh.
Madam Marie Jarjue Cham, the coordinator of the Women’s Platform, thanked all those who made the day a possibility i.e. the donors, partners and civil society in Senegal but most importantly their neighbouring countries, the Gambia and Guinea Bissau. She said as the saying goes “If your neighbour’s house is on fire you should not sit and watch” and Gambia and Guinea Bissau are very important stakeholders in attaining an ever lasting peace in Casamance.”
Madam Cham said she is overwhelmed by the turn out of participants to the conference and therefore thanked everyone for answering to their call.
Madam Hannah Foster, Director of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Right Studies, in her remarks, said peace cannot be sustained without love. She said love is the foundation of peace. She said if there is no love in the home, then there definitely cannot be peace within our communities, countries, continents and the world at large.
“It’s very important for us to inculcate love in our families and this cannot be done without the involvement of both stakeholders which is the mother and father. I know women are peace loving and as the first teacher of a child we always show love to our children but that love is not enough to teach a child about peace but the love and care that both parents show to each other is very important because as parents your actions towards each other is the most important experience for the child and when it is negative the child grows up to be negative in most cases but when it is positive the child eventually comes positive and peaceful,” she said.
Madame Forster said with love starting from the home and expanding outside the home, the development we are yearning for will be easily attained. She therefore urged all to show love and advocate for peace.
During the contributions from the gallery, Ms. Ida Jatta from the Gambia observed that in any peace negotiation, the youths should not be left behind because they are eventually going to take over. She said the conference is very important but looking at the youth representation, it’s not impressive therefore. “I’m appealing to the organizers to consider a larger youth representation in the future,” she concluded.
Mr. Lamin Jatta, a representative of the MFDC said in order for proper peace negotiations, all stakeholders need to be actively involved. He said he was with the expectation that as important partners in the peace process, they would have been given the opportunity to put their concerns forward in the presence of the Senegalese government officials but how can they wait until the authorities that should hear their concerns had left to give them the floor to speak. He said one thing very clear is that there cannot be peace in Casamance if the MFDC is not taking an active part in the peace talks. He finally said he is proud to be part of the conference and hopes that in the future they would be given chance for the authorities concerned to hear from them directly instead of allowing them to speak when the right authorities had already left.
Many other speakers included representatives from the government of Guinea Bissau, their civil society representatives, USAID rep, the civil society of Senegal, president of the Mano River of Sierra Leone Madam Yassin Jusu Sheriff etc.
The Kairaba award was also conferred to outstanding women of Senegal and other women from different countries in West Africa including Madam Hannah Forster of ACDHRS.