Welcome Address by Dr. Chukwuemeka B. Eze, FICMC, Executive Director WANEP at the Opening Ceremony of WANEP’s 20th Anniversary, March 26, 2019
Your Excellency, the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana-Addo-Dankwa Akufo Addo, Excellency, former Prime Minister of Burkina Faso and former President of ECOWAS Commission, Desire Ouedraogo the Chainman of this occasion, Excellency the United Nations Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Excellency the President of ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude BROU, Excellences Former Presidents and Commissioners of ECOWAS and African Union Commissions, Excellences Special Envoys of African Union and ECOWAS, Chair and members of the WANEP Regional and National Boards, founding Directors of WANEP, former Board members, members of the diplomatic corps, distinguished WANEP partners and friends, leaders of CSOs and peace agencies across the globe (special recognition of the President of ICMC, Executive Director of ACCORD, GPPAC, WASCI, Commandant of KAIPTC, Coordinator of the IPSS and the representative of the Baywood Foundation), former and current colleagues, our friends from the media, Ladies and Gentlemen
Twenty years is a milestone. It is an occasion to celebrate- and an opportunity to reminisce on our unique experience as an institution and chart a future that consolidates the vision of our founding directors. I am delighted to welcome you this morning to our celebration of 20 years of peacebuilding practice, learning and contribution to Africa peace and security agenda. I believe this is one of the rare moments of our history we are privileged to host this level of dignitaries comprising leaders of African States and government, leadership from the United Nations, African Union and ECOWAS, key stakeholders in the security sector, businesses, civil society and academia to mention but a few. Some of you have travelled quite a distance to grace this event – whether you battled through our challenging interstate road networks or through our sometimes, impossible regional connecting flights, we are happy you got here to share the WANEP story – a story you have been part of in many ways! Let me specially express my sincere appreciation to His Excellency Nana Akufo Addo, the President of the Republic of Ghana, for being the first sitting President to attend a WANEP regional function. We thank you, previous governments and the Ghanaian citizens for providing us with the conducive environment to operative our administrative and program headquarters that facilitates our peacebuilding approach and impact across West Africa.
WANEP was born as a direct response to the conflicts and civil wars that plagued the West African region throughout the 80s and 90s. It was born out of a genuine desire to establish a credible platform for addressing African problems from an African perspective. More importantly, it was a conviction that Africans can establish, nurture, grow and sustain an institution. Today, WANEP is no longer just an institution but an attitude, a bold statement and the pride of Africans. I pay special tribute to my predecessors, Dr. Sam Gbaydee Doe and Hon. Emmanuel Habuka Bombande for sowing and nurturing the mustard seed that is celebrated today as an oak tree of many branches and a forest of many parts.
The birth and beginning of WANEP was not only fraught with difficulties but also bumps and jabs! It took more than a year of consultations and negotiations to get us started and even then, it was seen as an experiment and at best a project with an end date. Our founding Directors and Board with the initial 20 members were resolute and unyielding in their resolve for a new narrative for African peace and security. A narrative that enables us take responsibility for our actions and inactions in Togo, Ghana and Benin as well as allow us lead in the design and implementation of peacebuilding strategies in Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau. A platform that gives us autonomy and space to reflect and learn from our interventions in Mali, Cape Verde and Nigeria while giving us pride in the successes we record in Gambia, Guinea and Burkina Faso. Juxtaposed to this is the celebration of our partnerships and accompaniments in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote D’Ivoire. It gives us a sense of fulfilment that while we appreciate our imperfections in responding to our challenges we take pride in what we have learnt as an institution and how it continually motivates and shapes our resolve to find indigenous solutions to conflicts in our region.
Over the years, WANEP has evolved to meet changing and challenging dynamics of conflicts in Africa and position itself to deliver on the expectations of our clients and communities. In addition to our growing influence and footprint in West Africa peace and security arena, we have expanded our work at the continental level as part of our contribution to address African challenges through the Africa Peace and Security Architecture. In 2017 we seconded a staff to the African Union Commission Peace and Security Department just as we have maintained a Liaison at the ECOWAS Commission since 2004. In this regard, I pay special tribute to His Excellency Ibn Chambas for taking the initial “risk” of signing an MoU with WANEP in 2004 as ECOWAS Strategic Partner in Peace and Security – the first of its kind in Africa! The experiences from AU and ECOWAS has endeared us to the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) that has formally requested that WANEP provide them with support in operationalizing its early warning system and to build its partnership with CSOs in the region- a reflection of WANEP-ECOWAS partnership example in West Africa. We have now advanced discussions to second a staff at the ECCAS Commission to support its vision of bridging the gap between CSOs, intergovernmental organizations and its member states. In the years ahead, we are committed to cross fertilize ideas that cut across borders and boundaries of Africa, expanding the horizon and sharing our knowledge with other Regional Economic Communities and CSOs on the continent
We continue to leverage on our partnerships and the growing expertise of our staff in developing innovative strategies that enable us to remain relevant. A retrospection of where we started from and where we are today clearly shows a phenomenal growth in the key areas of governance, advocacy, program planning and implementation, financial management and accountability and adherence to the organization’s strategic direction. Despite the challenges associated with managing large networks including the harmonization of operational instruments and institutional reforms, WANEP networks continue to play critical roles in supporting ECOWAS, AU and its member states peace and security agenda
At this juncture, Mr. Chairman, Excellences, ladies and gentlemen, permit me to recognize our past and present partners especially those who have funded our activities generously over the years. Some of them took the initial risk of investing in an unknown organization operating in unpopular thematic areas of early warning, active non-violence, women in peacebuilding and other conflict prevention mechanisms while others have helped us sustain the vision of our founders. Institutions like the Catholic Relief Services, Bread for the World, Miseror, United States Agency for International Development, Governments of Finland, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Germany/GIZ, European Union, Oxfam, NOVIB, OSIWA, USIP, and other strategic partners like AU, ECOWAS, GPPAC, WACSI, CDD, ACCORD, NPI, defunct FEWER, KAIPTC, IPSS of the University of Ibadan, Institute for Chartered Mediators and Conciliators among many others have all played and continued to play vital roles in the growth and sustenance of WANEP and at this anniversary celebration, we pay special compliment and honour them for their contributions.
I have already acknowledged our founding directors and my mentors for laying the foundation upon which thrive today. Let me respectfully appreciate our professional Regional and National Board members especially the current Chair AVM Christian Edem Dovlo and Chairman Emeritus Professor Isaac Albert, the distinguished and highly committed members of WANEP who are with us today, former board and staff members, my colleagues in the management team, our national staff and all of you our friends. There is no way to adequately thank you for what you have helped us to achieve especially in our early years. Without your focused commitment to improve the peace and security landscape in West Africa, without your dedication to build a solid organization that could really make a difference, we simply would not be where we are today. I equally pay special tribute to our colleagues who have passed on and hope that they will be proud of how our collective dream is helping and changing lives.
In preparing for this 20th anniversary celebration I dug into the archives of WANEP and unearthed a number of gems including the report of our initial consultative meetings to establish WANEP. The good old pictures that portrayed Sam and Emmanuel as boys and Esther as a school girl. I had joyous moments of how much we have stood true to our vision, commitments and conviction. I reviewed some of the evaluation reports and audited accounts, I reviewed staff list and performance appraisals and more importantly our challenges and ordeals. The story of WANEP is in many respects the story of the changing topography of peace and security. Our work and scope have matured and modified with the transforming needs of African citizens and government and looking into the future we see our potpourri of ideas being increasingly fine-tuned to address priorities such as violent extremism, governance and leadership deficit, integration agenda of Africa, women and youth empowerment, poverty and underdevelopment, strengthening our governance and institutional mechanisms as a network, environmental issues and many more. All these falls under the human security lexicon, the SDGs, Africa Vision 2063 and ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework and I am very pleased that our current and future strategic plans are poised to address and contribute to the success and impact of these initiatives.
Today we are also privileged to have the President of the Republic of Ghana to inaugurate the first ever West Africa Peacebuilding Fellows and I am truly honoured to have them here at this auspicious event. The Body of Fellows is for exceptional West African citizens who work in and beyond their countries of origin and whose contribution has direct bearing on peace and security in West Africa. The Fellowship seeks to harness and leverage the skills of peacebuilding practitioners in support of WANEP, ECOWAS Member States and the Commission as well as other development agencies and practitioner’s intervention for conflict transformation in Africa. It further seeks to support research, teaching, publication, and practical field experience on issues of peace, causes of conflict, and Africa’s development; thereby inspiring people to build relationships for a culture of tolerance and peace while enhancing their capacity, knowledge, and skill through interactions and exchanges. With the fluidity and nature of threats in the region, requiring rapid and innovative strategies to prevent or mitigate their impact, it has become imperative to have a platform of peacebuilding actors across the region with proven expertise and hands-on experience to provide guidance and direction in the design and implementation of peacebuilding programs. To celebrate the birth of this Fellowship a public lecture has been scheduled immediately after this opening ceremony. This maiden lecture will focus on the future and features of peace and security in Africa and will inform the design of WANEP’s next strategic plan
Today we will also present a documentary of our work and impact on the continent and two important books showcasing our contributions to elections and democratic process in West Africa and lessons from our partnership with intergovernmental organisations. Our exhibition will portray our collective work in the last 20 years from the regional and national level. With your support WANEP has grown tremendously over the past 20 years both in terms of the depth of its remit and the impact of its interventions. WANEP is a partnership and a family, it is also 15 countries, several donors, professional Board, 554 members and over 10 million direct and indirect beneficiaries, civil society, indigenous people, and business. Operating as a network allows WANEP to draw on the expertise and capacities of each, giving us a very broad set of competencies, as well as the ability to support ECOWAS and AU and make influence that transcends our internal capacity. So, believe me excellences, ladies and gentlemen when I say I am very proud to have the rare opportunity of leading this team to celebrate 20 years of impact, 20 years of accomplishment and 20 years of solid foundation that bonds us for future challenges.
Your Excellency Mr. President, permit me to confess that though I have been nurtured by two very shy professionals, I have relied more on the biblical injunction of ask and you shall receive Which is why I humbly bring up the following passionate appeal to you. In 2015 we submitted a request to the Ministry of Foreign affairs to grant WANEP diplomatic status. The request was supported by ECOWAS in the form of a recommendation to the government and backed by an MoU with AU. Our ability to meet the demands of ECOWAS, AU and member states and the cost of our doing business is hindered by our inability to access this status and we use this opportunity to collectively ask your excellency to kindly facilitate this process within his powers to enable us serve Africa better.
Naturally, we are deeply encouraged by the enthusiasm we see out there for the future of WANEP. Your attendance here today is just one of many recent examples of that enthusiasm, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to help harness and leverage it. We have truly embraced our role as a catalyst and partner for change. In fact, we have made that catalytic work a central pillar in our plan as we look forward to another decade of peacebuilding practice in Africa. Of course, our plan for reaching the big goal will largely depend on you our partners and friends and as we share this moment with you, we invite you to continue to be part of our story – this is why we invited you here today. We want the benefit of your good thinking, and the energy generated by your enthusiasm, to help us chart the road ahead and to continue to be relevant to you. Thank you for your friendship and for believing in us. Akwaba!