The Africa Peace Award (APA), created by the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) in 1993, is an event that honours an individual, group or country whose efforts have contributed to conflict transformation. When it was first instituted the award was aimed at recognising those communities, institutions or individuals in South Africa who had directly contributed to peace. In 1995 the APA was extended to the whole of Africa in the hope that it would promote peace, create role models and instil a sense of pride in the people of the African continent.
The award recipient is selected based on three criteria:
- The protection of and respect for human rights
- The peaceful settlement of disputes
- Good governance of public affairs
Durban, South Africa, is the host city of the award. The recipient is chosen by the Trustees and Staff of ACCORD. The APA takes the form of a one night gala event, attended by South African, African and international dignitaries. Engen Petroleum Limited has funded the APA since its inception in 1993 and is one of the main sponsors of the event. In addition to the gala dinner, the lead up to the award takes the form of a choreographed celebration of singing and dancing in a theme especially chosen to reflect the evening. In 2000 and 2003 the award ceremony formed the gala evening for the World Economic Forum's Africa Economic Summits.
The first APA was presented to the Community of Mpumalanga (KwaZulu Natal) in 1993, for the significant contribution they made to peace in their efforts of turning one of the most violent areas in South Africa into a haven of relative peace.
The second APA was awarded to former President Nelson Mandela in 1995. President Mandela, described in his address by former Secretary General of the OAU, Dr. Salim A. Salim, as 'one of the greatest sons of Africa, a World Statesman and a legend in his lifetime,' is in many ways an embodiment of the very essence of everything the APA represents. The award honoured President Mandela's pivotal role in the South African miracle. As 'the single most vital symbol not only of liberation from the tyranny of apartheid, but of a new way of life,' he is a remarkable testimony to the power of negotiation and the peaceful resolution of disputes.
The third APA was presented to the Nation of Mozambique in 1997. The award went to the Nation of Mozambique for their efforts towards peace, respect for human rights and good governance. The former President of Mozambique, President Chissano, received the award on behalf of his people. Since the end of the civil war and the establishment of a Government of National Unity in the early 1990s, Mozambique has been able to achieve effective growth and development, while still holding onto the important values of human dignity, in order to ensure long-term prosperity and stability.
The fourth APA was presented to the Nation of Nigeria in 2000. Unable to attend in person, former President Obasanjo sent the former military leader of Nigeria, General Abubaker, to receive the award on behalf of the people of Nigeria. In early 1999 Nigerians voted in the first democratically-elected civilian government to rule their country in 16 years. The 1999 democratic transition was a victory for all Nigerians. For many years courageous journalists, community organisations, churches, and NGOs stood united for change – often at great personal cost. It is in their honour that ACCORD presented the APA to the people of Nigeria.
The fifth APA was presented to the 'Children of Africa' with a special focus on the children of the DRC, in 2003. Symbolizing the future of Africa and the continent's hopes and dreams, the award was presented to a group of children drawn from various regions in Africa. President Kabila sent a message of hope and peace which was read out by the children representing the DRC.
The sixth APA was awarded to the Nation of Burundi in 2006. The award was given to Burundi for outstanding achievements in settling years of civil war in a peace process that resulted in a negotiated settlement and the successful democratic election of a new government in 2005. ACCORD has been active in the Burundian peace process since 1995, and has had an office in that country since 2003.
The seventh APA was awarded to the Nation of Sierra Leone in 2010. The award was given to Sierra Leone in recognition of the efforts that the people of Sierra Leone had made towards achieving peace and consolidating democracy.
The eighth APA will be awarded to the Nation of Ghana. The award is being presented to the Nation of Ghana in recognition of its active role in regional and international efforts to foster peace. Ghana is a pacesetter, which has gradually evolved over time to become a very stable democracy characterised by political maturity, tolerance, respect for the rule of law and a good track record of respect for human rights, good governance and the general promotion of peace.
Ghana is a success story for peace and democracy in the region and a pioneer for the struggle for independence in Sub-Saharan Africa. From the early 1990s, when the country adopted democratic rule, Ghana has been nurturing values which protect human rights, good governance and the peaceful resolution of disputes.
The constitution of Ghana provides the basis for the protection of fundamental human rights, thus showing its dedication to civil liberties and the rule of law. The respect for freedom of speech and the press, as well as the country's Freedom of Information Act of 2002, has offered Ghana opportunities for lively political debate and a strengthened democracy. In terms of socio-economic human rights, poverty reduction is central to the Government's development policies.
Dating back to 1963 Ghana has taken a leading role in championing the unity of African nations. Ghana also plays an active role in regional and international efforts to foster peace. Ghana's consistent contribution to international peacekeeping can be seen through the contribution of military, police and civilian personnel to international peacekeeping missions throughout the world. As part of the AU's New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) initiative, Ghana was one of the first countries to volunteer and implement the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), a development which further deepened its democratisation.
It is the respect for human rights and the successive peaceful elections, characterised by smooth back-to-back transfers of power from democratically elected incumbents to democratically elected successors (in a very volatile region of West Africa), which makes Ghana a beacon of hope for democracy and true leadership. Given Ghana's track-record as the trailblazer of peaceful transitions of power, her contribution to regional, as well as international peacekeeping initiatives, and her quest to promote peace in West Africa and beyond, makes her a deserving recipient of the Africa Peace Award.