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Charity begins at home

Mar 14, 2014, 1:19 PM

They say ‘charity begins at home’.

We are referring here to the speech of the Gambian head of state at the centenary conference on human security and development in Africa held recently in Abuja, Nigeria.

He recalled that “in May 2013 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the OAU/AU we set ourselves the goal of ending all wars on the continent by 2020.

He added: “It was during these celebrations in Addis Ababa that I proposed a decade of peace and reconciliation in Africa and my government continues to advocate this position, because there cannot be any lasting peace in Africa if we do not reconcile our differences in a peaceful and harmonious manner.

“I am happy to note that the authority of heads of state and governments of the AU have adopted this proposal for a decade of reconciliation…”

He went on: “We appeal to all Nigerians to reconcile their differences peacefully and maintain Nigeria as a strong and unified power house of Black Africa.There is no country in the world that is comprises one region, one religion and one ethnic group.The beauty of Nigeria and any country for that matter lies in her cultural, religious and regional diversity.

“Our diversity should be a source of strength, unity and pride and not division, weakness and violence.

“If religion is anything to go by, we as Muslims and Christians should understand that in the ultimate kingdom of Allah that is Heaven only the Almighty Allah would decide who enters Heaven. Since our ultimate objective as Allah worshiping Muslims and Christians is to be granted eternal bliss in Heaven, we must remember that we have no control over who we want to live with in Heaven.Therefore, we must accept that in this world, we should tolerate each other, accept our diversity, since it is the same Almighty who created all of us despite our diversity.

“The people of the Gambia in particular, and black Africa in general look up to all Nigerians to maintain and strengthen the unity, peace and prosperity of Nigeria as Africa’s most populous Nation and Black Africa’s power house.All Nigerians should understand that a divided Nigeria can only mean catastrophe for the entire black race.Please preserve the unity and peace of Nigeria and remember that Nigeria is bigger than any regional, ethnic or cultural considerations or interest…”

We recall that here in The Gambia, there have been many calls in the past, by opposition leaders and the media, for the government to take measures to facilitate national reconciliation.

These would include pardoning persons convicted of treason; electoral reform; opening up the state-controlled media to access by opposition leaders and others for the expression of divergent views and opinions (as required by the country’s constitution); repealing laws which criminalise free expression and restrict freedom of expression and the existence of a free press in the country; extending an olive branch to detractors of the government in the Gambian Diaspora; and so on.

It is our opinion that the statement of the Nigerian leader delivered at the same centenary conference provides a lot of insights on the way forward.

According to the Nigerian leader, African leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, “re-committed ourselves to building a new Africa, which will usher in greater peace, security and prosperity for our peoples...

“As a nation, whose fate and destiny are inextricably linked to that of the continent, Nigeria recognizes the opportunity of the moment, and particularly, that this is the place and time to reflect on this theme of our centenary conference, Human Security, Peace and Development: An Agenda for the 21st Century.

“There is no doubt that Africa is rising. Today, seven of the fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. Investment in the continent by Africans in the Diaspora bears testimony to the increased level of confidence in our continent. The rising middle class and greater penetration of Information and Communications Technologies, combined with a fast expanding financial services sector, are all pointers to a better future. But we must secure this bright future. To do so, we must seriously address the issues of human security, peace and development.

“Your Excellencies, as you well know, the issues of human security and peace are indispensable in the life of every nation. For far too long, in many parts of the world, especially in our continent, governments had placed much emphasis on the security of the state, and our very scarce resources were committed to military and regime security, at the expense of human security.

“We recognize human security as encompassing firm guarantees for human rights and good governance, that translate into expanded opportunities for economic security, food security, health and education security, environmental security, and personal and community security. A firm commitment to human security holds the promise of an end to persistent conflicts, insecurity, poverty, disease, terrorism and other scourges that undermine the attainment of our dreams.

“We must emphasize that human security and peace are intertwined. Peace is not just the absence of violence or war. Peace encompasses every aspect of social tranquillity and wellbeing. The peace we strive for is a state marked by the absence of severe human want and avoidable fear. In our lifetime, this peace is attainable, in our nations and our continent. However, Your Excellencies, we must strengthen existing mechanisms for national and international conflict management, and create new avenues for cooperation, within and between our peoples and our Nations.

“Your Excellencies and dear friends, I firmly share the view that if we stay focused and work together, we can make this 21st century, the African century. A century where all our children will have enough to eat; a century where all our children will be in school; a century where economic growth and prosperity touches all, regardless of gender, economic, political status, ethnic or religious affinity. For this to be achieved, our development must be people-centred, people-driven and anchored on human security.

“Your Excellencies, the current state of human security, peace and development in our dear continent presents a picture of hope as well as challenges. For over a decade, Africa has consolidated on its democracy, and many countries have exited military dictatorship. There is now a heightened commitment to the tenets of good governance, and the rule of law.

“Nigeria has always sought security, peace and development. We are steadily developing a strong and vibrant democracy. There is enthusiastic participation across the nation, with a purposeful government and active opposition parties. This was clearly expressed in the last national elections held in 2011, which received wide national and international acclaim, and was adjudged the freest and fairest ever in our nation’s history”.

"If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble."

Bob Hope