Laying the groundwork for lasting peace
Kouame Remi Oussou (third from left) during his days as a Rotary World Peace Fellow at International Christian University. A former member of the Rotaract Club of Abidjan Cocody, Côte d'Ivoire, he says he would like to become a Rotarian. Photo courtesy of Kouame Remi Oussou
The civil war that tore apart Kouame Remi Oussou's homeland of Côte d'Ivoire instilled in him a passion to work for solutions to conflict.
Although most of the violence, which broke out in 2002, ended in 2004, the war left his country divided in two.
Oussou is now a monitoring and evaluation officer for disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Central African Republic. His work helps address the needs of a country that weathered periodic civil conflict before a comprehensive peace accord took effect in 2007.
"DDR remains a process," says Oussou, the first polio survivor to become a Rotary World Peace Fellow. "It takes tremendous time to get the D and D done before even thinking of the R part."
Conducting socioeconomic studies is the focal point of the DDR team's efforts.
"One of my roles is to think in advance how the ex-combatants will be making a living after disarmament and demobilization," says Oussou, who is fluent in Baule, English, French, German, and Spanish. "We are a quite sturdy team, in the firing line of conflicting interests, including the Central African Republic government, the politico-military leaders, and UNDP itself."
Oussou says his parents told him that he contracted polio when he was one or two years old. But he has "long had a strong feeling that with hard work, handicap or not, anyone can succeed."
Oussou's studies as a 2007-09 Rotary World Peace Fellow at International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo helped prepare him for his work in the Central African Republic. His applied field experience with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research office in Hiroshima was especially helpful: It gave him the opportunity to conduct research and help organize a joint conference of the institute and UNESCO on nuclear energy, where he also delivered a presentation.
"I could not be more thankful to Rotary International and ICU for providing me with such a great opportunity to contribute to the debate over peace and security in Africa and the world," he says.
Written for Reconnections