Abdoulaye Wade receives Houphouët-Boigny Peace PrizeUNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger today presented the 2005 Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize to the President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, during a ceremony at the Organization’s Headquarters.
The ceremony took place in the presence of several Heads of State including Jacques Chirac (France), Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (Equatorial Guinea), Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria), Mamadou Tandja (Niger), Marc Ravalomanana (Madagascar), Amadou Toumani Touré (Mali), João Bernardo Vieira (Guinea-Bissau) and Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania). Numerous other political personalities were also present including the Secretary-General of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and former President of Senegal Abdou Diouf, and former Côte d’Ivoire President Henri Konan Bedié, who’re both patrons of the prize, along with Secretary-General of the Arab League Amr Moussa and the Foreign Affairs Minister of Spain, Miguel Angel Moratinos.
All speakers paid tribute to former Côte d’Ivoire President Felix Houphouët-Boigny, for whom the prize is named, and stressed the role of President Wade in the management, prevention and mediation of conflicts in Africa.
“The prize is given to President Abdoulaye Wade for his contribution to democracy in his country and for his mediation in political crises and conflicts in Africa,” said jury president Henry Kissinger, welcoming the awarding of the prize this year to a son of Africa, the President of Senegal, whose “political change was carried out in a climate of peace and cooperation” and “who has become an example for other countries in Africa and the world.”
“Since your entry into politics in 1974 […] that took you from the opposition to the leadership of your country, you have worked for the modernization of Senegal’s political life, by placing education and culture at the heart of public action,” declared Koïchiro Matsuura in his address. “Under your guidance, Senegal has become a model in the domain (of Education for All), devoting almost 40 percent of the national budget to education,” continued the UNESCO Director-General. “You have also breathed new life into the renaissance of the African continent, working side by side with your peers to construct the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), an innovative pact of solidarity and hope.”
President Chirac stressed that this prize “honours a philosophy and a conduct turned to the service of peace and democracy, and crowns a political career devoted to leading people to fellow-mindedness”. “Each of us here knows of your commitment to human rights and democracy in Senegal,” he added, before paying particular tribute to President’s Wade’s “courageous decision to eliminate the death penalty in Senegal.”
Considering the prize as a gesture of recognition and encouragement, Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo spoke of the conflicts in Africa. “We have known too many conflicts in Africa and we still continue to face great challenges within and between nations. In spite of some recorded notable successes, the road to peace in our lands is still spread ahead of us.”
Presenting his successor to the presidency of Senegal, Abdou Diouf declared: “His positive engagement in the many areas of tension on our continent is inspirational. The ceasefire in Côte d’Ivoire and resolution of crises in Madagascar and Guinea-Bissau – among others – are to his credit.” “By awarding you this prize,” he added “the jury presided by Dr. Kissinger confers upon you a great responsibility of which I am sure you are fully aware: to pursue the work of peace, concord, dialogue and fraternity of President Felix Houphouët-Boigny.”
“He was one of the first African leaders to proclaim himself a liberal and to combat the one-party regime in francophone Africa,” said Henri Konan-Bedié, adding: “With Leopold Sedar Senghor and my friend and brother Abdou Diouf […] his contribution to the establishment of political pluralism in Senegal has been essential for the emergence of modern Senegalese democracy.”
“This distinction is not for me alone,” said President Wade. “The man having been shaped by his cultural milieu, merit must be first attributed to my people; the Senegalese people who have inculcated in me their universal values of tolerance and peace.”
He said “the cheque that comes with the prize will be given to the Case des Touts-petits .” President Wade announced the establishment of this pre-school structure for children aged two to six in Dakar in 2003. It aims to “bring to African children educational games not known in their traditional environment [and at the same time] welcome each day the grandfather or grandmother of the village to tell an African story.”
Seeing in this prize “a compensation and an encouragement, but also an invitation to persevere in the quest for peace,” President Wade stressed the role of education in the creation of a peaceful world. “History has sufficiently proved that peace is not just the absence of war. The absence of war is a point of departure, a condition sine qua non […] Peace is a life of harmony, reciprocal respect, love […] To live together in peace, let’s start with education and the development of our children,” he said.