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African Union to Enlist Famous Africans as Peace Ambassadors

Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa (file photo)
Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa (file photo)

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James Butty

The African Union has reportedly named famous African politicians, musicians, and Nobel laureates as special ambassadors to promote the AU’s peace efforts across the continent.

At their summit in Libya a year ago, African leaders declared 2010 as the "Year of Peace and Security."

The Associated Press reported Monday that the African Union has named South African anti-apartheid legend Desmond Tutu, Kenya’s Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, and multimillionaire Mo Ibrahim.

Other celebrities include Senegal’s Grammy-winning singer Youssou N’Dour, Ghanaian international footballer Michael Essien and pop singer Salif Keita of Mali.

University of Abuja political science professor Kabiru Mato says, with so many conflicts on the continent, the African Union is correct in calling on some of its famous citizens to be peace diplomats.

Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai of Kenya
Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai of Kenya

“I think what the African Union is doing is simply following along the lines of what has been done elsewhere in the world and even in Africa in the past. We have seen where great persons and women have been used to bring about solutions to protracted crises. So, in my view, it’s another major achievement because these people are simply serving as instruments to achieve certain specific objectives,” he said.

Mato said the new peace emissaries would complement the work of the AU Peace and Security Council.

“I think it’s more or less adding some impetus into the work of the Peace and Security Council in order to achieve peace throughout the continent, especially in those areas where war has become the rule rather than the exception,” Mato said.

He cited the roles played by former Liberian international footballer George Weah and Ivory Coast international footballer Didier Drogba in helping to bring peace to their respective countries.

Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast
Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast

Drogba is credited with playing a vital role in bringing peace to his country. After Côte d'Ivoire qualified for the 2006 World Cup, Drogba made a desperate plea to the combatants asking them to lay down their arms, a plea which many said was answered with a cease fire after five years of civil war.

Drogba later helped move an African Cup of Nations qualifier to the rebel stronghold of Bouake, a move that some said helped confirm the peace process.

"I’ve seen the role that people like George Oppong Weah played in the heat of the Liberian civil war," Mato said. "We’ve also seen, to a large extent, the contribution of the footballer from Ivory Coast, Didier Drogba, in also providing relief in the hostilities between the north and the south of the Ivory Coast. I think it’s simply a strategy of deploying more resources to address African problems.”

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