Former military ruler advocates grassroots peace building initiatives
A former president of Nigeria will address a gathering in London in a few weeks time to advocate the need for grassroots peace initiatives in solving long standing conflicts in West Africa and beyond.
General Dr Yakubu Gowon has worked at the highest military and political levels for many years. However his more recent experience has been in highlighting the need for non-violent interventions at grassroots levels in order to work effectively for sustainable peace and stability.
Speaking alongside the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, at an event co-sponsored by the religious thinktank Ekklesia to mark the 40th Anniversary of CHIPS (Christian International Peace Service) General Dr Gowon will highlight the need for peacemaking initiatives in West Africa particularly in the context of Christian-Muslim relations. He will also stress the potential importance of the Commonwealth as a vehicle for peace. But whilst recognising the role of higher level political processes will focus on how sustainable peace cannot be achieved without a conflict transformation at grassroots level.
General Dr Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria's Head of State for nine years, from 1966 to 1975, is best known for his role in preventing the breakup of Nigeria in the 'Biafran' war 1967-1970. He subsequently followed a magnanimous "no victor, no vanquished" policy that did much to restore the goodwill that had been lost between the Igbo and the rest of Nigeria during the 1966ñ1970 period.
During his time as post-war Head of State in the oil-rich 1970s, Gowon introduced new currency, developed road and air networks (and driving on the right), Nigerianised industry, improved salaries, and aspired to universal primary education. Internationally respected, he was instrumental in the establishing of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) and was chairman of OAU (Organisation for African Unity) 1973-1974. However, having promised to return Nigeria to civilian rule by 1976 he reversed that decision in 1974, lost popular support, and was ousted by General Murtala Mohammed in a bloodless coup in 1975.
After losing power in 1975, Gowon left the army and, along with his wife and two young children left Nigeria to begin a new life in the UK where by 1983 he attained a PhD in Political Science and International Relations. In recent years, having returned to Nigeria from exile, General Gowon has been the President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Yakubu Gowon Centre (YGC) since its inception in 1991 and, in collaboration with President Carter and the Carter Center in the USA, is involved in the Guinea Worm Eradication programme, a highly successful project that has resulted in the near-eradication of this disease throughout Africa. In addition, funding from the Global Fund has enabled the YGC to make significant inroads in the fight against Malaria in Nigeria.
General Gowon is the founder of the Nigeria Prays Organisation and Programme which marks its tenth anniversary this year, through which he tries to mediate in the bitter religious struggles of present-day Nigeria.
Speaking ahead of the event, Mark Cuthbert, director of CHIPS said; ìTo have a former military ruler from one of the most conflict-ridden areas of the world advocating grass roots peacemaking initiatives, sends a powerful message about the limits of political processes.î
ìThere is a growing realisation around the world, and particularly in the current climate of terror, that peace is not achieved through quick fix solutions, but must involve a process which involves whole communities at the grassroots level.î
The event is in London on 30th November. Admission is by invitation only.
For more details email Mark Cuthbert firstname.lastname@example.org