Peace camp will help train West African youth in peace and conflict resolution
Former Rotary Peace Fellow to dedicate the first of a series of Peace Huts in West Africa
Sierra Leone (August 21, 2010) – Youth leaders, government representatives, and traditional leaders from post-conflict and fragile states in West Africa will join former Rotary peace fellow Richelieu Allison in teaching local youth how to peacefully resolve deep rooted disputes on August 22-25, in Jendemah, Sierra Leone.
A special cross-border training workshop will also be held for immigration and law enforcement officers, and traditional leaders including town chiefs and elders living along the border area between Liberia and Sierra Leone. Other events include a midnight peace parade, peace vigils, and the dedication of the Rotary Peace Hut.
Allison, who is spearheading the upcoming peace camp and peace caravan through four West African countries in November says, “There is still a need to ensure that the people continue to reconcile their differences.” A native of Liberia, Allison knows the horrors of war. “I saw summary executions. I witnessed the recruitment of my friends who, as young as eight, were sent to the battlefront,” he recalls.
In 2006, Allison graduated from Rotary’s Peace and Conflict Studies certificate program at Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok, Thailand. Determined to put into practice what he learned, Allison returned home to continue to work with the West African Youth Network (WAYN), a group that mobilizes and trains young people to restore peace and human rights in West Africa.
Rotary International President Ray Klinginsmith notes that 516 Rotary Peace Centers alumni, including 54 Africans, already are making a difference in grass-roots efforts and key decision-making positions in governments and organizations around the world.
“It is this growing network of peace fellows like Richelieu Allison, who has returned to his homeland and is applying directly what he learned, that makes me believe that peace is possible and Africa will have a peaceful and prosperous future,” said Klinginsmith.
With assistance of the Rotary Club of Freetown, the Rotary Foundation and local volunteers, Allison built the first of seven peace huts in the border town of Jendemah in 2009. It will be officially dedicated during the Peace Camp, on August 25. The palaver hut, an important symbol of peace in West African culture, is where town chiefs and elders traditionally settle conflicts.
In addition, Allison will kick-off a Peace Caravan this November linking the first peace hut in Jendemah to others in post-conflict and fragile states in the Mano River basin. Allison’s three-week peace caravan through Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast will promote peace, unity and reconciliation, advocating human rights and democracy to increase the involvement of local people in the peace-building process.
The caravan, comprised of two large buses with members of the West African Youth Network and Rotary club members, will travel through major towns and villages in the four countries and distribute messages of peace, love and reconciliation. The peace camp and peace caravan are sponsored by the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) and “Kerk In Actie” (Church in Action) which are both based in the Netherlands.
The Rotary Centers for International Studies in peace and conflict resolution launched in 2002 to help the next generation of government officials, diplomats and humanitarian leaders develop the skills needed to reduce the threat of war and violence worldwide.
Through a worldwide, competitive process, this program awards full scholarships to up to 100 Rotary Peace Fellows each year. Fellows embark on one-to-two years of study to earn a master’s-level degree or a professional certificate in peace and conflict studies at one of six Rotary Peace Centers at leading universities in Argentina, Australia, England, Japan, the United States and Thailand.
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Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide to provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. It is comprised of 1.2 million members working in over 33,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Rotary members initiate community projects that address many of today’s most critical issues, such as poverty, disease and illiteracy.