Peace NGO: Uhuru-Raila pact ‘a good lesson for great lakes region and Africa’

2017 Laureate of The CIRID's Macky Sall Prize for Dialogue in Africa, Mogho Naba Baongo II (centre) receives the prize from President of CIRID, Deo Hakizimana, together with, Special Representative of CIRID Prof. Casimir Yameogo (left) in Ouagadougou. [Ally Jamah, Standard]

The recent reconciliation between political nemesis President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga offers good lessons and inspiration to the troubled Great Lakes Region and Africa, an international peace and dialogue NGO has said.

The Geneva-based Centre for Research and Initiatives for Dialogue (CIRID), which promotes political and social dialogue to avert conflicts in Africa, has said the pact has sent a strong message in favour of dialogue to resolve seemingly intractable political differences.

"The picture of the two leaders shaking hands is currently circulating around the world, representing opponents who have agreed to set aside their rivalries and work together.  This is a good lesson for all of Africa, especially for the African Great Lakes Region," said CIRID's President and Founder Deo Hakizimana.

The former Burundian diplomat, teacher and journalist added:  "The reconciliation highlights the two leaders’ agreement that the interests of their nation exceed those of their personal rivalries sparked by the political competition of the past few months."

Hakizimana, whose organisation founded an annual prize award for peace makers in the continent, said that the tense political climate in Kenya surrounding the 2017 elections kept many observers guessing if violence post-election violence could break.

"The picture of the leaders shaking hands highlights what geopolitical specialists call fatuous proxy wars that have an honorable end for those protagonists who really seek the love for their country," he said.

The CIRID leader said such reconciliation pacts are only possible when the winners of an election decide to place themselves above the fray in a context of inclusive, responsible and truthful dialogue.

"On the other hand, it also means that the losers have been able to notice the harsh reality due to a power struggle that has ruthlessly rocked the foundations of the country, " he said.

He called on other leaders in the region and the continent to embrace the same spirit of dialogue and concessions with their opponents to avert unnecessary conflict and bloodshed.

Citing Burundi, which is currently facing political tensions and turmoil since 2015, he urged the country to replicate Kenya as it heads to a referendum. 

He called on leaders in Burundi and other countries in the continent to avoid taking hard-line stances and instead embrace meaningful dialogue with their opponents.

"Burundi's capital Bujumbura or the balcony of the Congo, is a potential diplomatic hub in the region after Nairobi if the country's stability is secured through dialogue and reconciliation," said Hakizimama.

He added: "It is ironic that Burundi is in political challenges despite hosting the Executive Secretariat of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), which brings together 12 regional countries to cooperate on peace and security among other issues."

In 2016, CIRID founded the Macky Sall Prize for Dialogue in Africa to promote political and social dialogue to avert violent conflicts.

The prize, that comes with a cash award of 50000 Euros (Sh6.2 million), is named after current Senegalese President Macky Sall for his role in promoting political and social dialogue in his country to resolve differences.

The inaugural 2017 prize went to Mogho Naba Baongo II, an influential traditional ruler in Burkina Faso while the search for the 2018 laureate is ongoing.

The prize award has an Honorary Selection Committee made up of former and current African leaders including Ivory Coast’s President Allassane Ouattara, King Mohamed VI of Morocco, Gabon's President Ali Bongo as well as international artists such as Youssou Ndour, Angélique Kidjo and Emmanual Jal among others.

CIRID hopes to include Kenya's President in the committee in the near future.

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