French President to receive UNESCO Peace Prize for action in Africa
French President Francois Hollande will be awarded the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize during a ceremony, held at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris on 5 June. The ceremony will be webcast live on UNESCO website from 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm (GMT+2).
The Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize, created in 1989, is intended to honour individuals and organisations that have made a significant contribution to peace and stability around the world. Former laureates include Nelson Mandela and Frederik W. De Klerk; Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Yasser Arafat and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The 2010 Prize was awarded to the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo for their tireless efforts to collect information on children kidnapped during the political repression of the military dictatorship in Argentina.
In early 2013, the Hollande government authorised a French-led operation to secure regions in northern Mali that had been captured by rebels. In addition to reported human rights violations in these areas, the conflict caused significant damage and destruction to the country’s priceless cultural heritage, including in Timbuktu, famous for its World Heritage-listed historic centre and a large collection of centuries-old Islamic manuscripts.
The Jury of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize condemned “the violation of Mali’s territorial integrity, the violation of human rights, the taking of hostages and the destruction of the cultural heritage of humanity in Timbuktu”. The Jury’s President Joaquim Chissano made the following statement:
“Having assessed the dangers and the repercussions of the situation on Africa and on Mali in particular, as well as on the rest of the world, the Jury appreciated the solidarity shown by France to the peoples of Africa. The Jury therefore decided to award the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize to Mr Francois Hollande, President of the French Republic, for his great contribution to peace and stability in Africa.”
President Hollande will be presented with a peace diploma, a gold medal, and a cash prize worth US$150,000, which he plans to donate to two organisations that help mitigate the negative effects of the conflict: the Network on Peace and Security for Women in the ECOWAS Region, and Solidarité Défense, which helps rehabilitate injured soldiers.
Malian President Dioncounda Traoré will attend the award ceremony along with the presidents of several African countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.
The ceremony continues the peace-building ideals set out by the late president Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who stated: “Peace is not a word, it’s a behaviour.”
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