Tuesday, January 15 was the 79th birthday anniversary of slain U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Americans will officially observed the day Monday (January 21) with a federal holiday. King was assassinated on April 4,1969. The U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana Tuesday presented its First Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace and Social Justice Award to two Ghanaians.
Angela Odai is the public information officer for the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center outside the Ghanaian capital. She told VOA the recipients personified Dr. King’s nonviolent means of promoting social justice, human rights, and peace.
“The award was presented at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center on the 29th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birth on Tuesday, the 15th of January 2008. There were two winners. The first was Bishop Vincent Boi Nii, a Catholic priest. The other one was an Islamic leader Alhaji Al-Hussein Zakaria. They both received engraved plaques and citations,” she said.
Odai said Bishop Nii was recognized for his mediation role in a dispute between rival ethnic groups in northern Ghana.
“He happens to be from the south of Ghana, and the northern part of Ghana was in conflict because there was a tribal conflict, and one tribe happened to behead the chief of the other. So many killings were taking place; so many people were being displaced; houses were being burnt. And the bishop took it upon himself to mediate and won the trust of both sides. At the end of the day the people agreed to bury their chief, and soon there was quiet in northern Ghana,” Odai said.
She said Alhaji Al-Hussein Zakaria received the First Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace and Social Justice Award because he used his Inter-religious Dialogue Committee to bring about understanding among various religious and ethnic groups.
“The Alhaji happens to be a leader in the northern part of Ghana, and usually the northerners in Ghana majority of them are Moslems. So they believed in his doctrine. He happened to bring this kind of inter-religious dialogue to the northern region and worked closely with all the religious leaders. So they happened to mend the fences and made sure that there was peace. So NGOs and so many other organizations which the U.S. Embassy contacted thought it wise for these two prominent people to have the award,” Odai said.