By Crisford Chogugudza
All the evidence regarding the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize Accolades suggest that Africans are not hot favourites to receive the coveted prize. Whether this is deliberate or coincidental nobody knows. For many years, African luminaries have performed reasonable efforts in bringing or contributing to peace in Africa since the genesis of nationalism and Independence in late 1950s. Some of these African luminaries who qualify to receive the Nobel Peace Prize include the following among others Ellen Johnson-Sir leaf of Liberia, Ken Saro Wiwa of Nigeria, Joachim Chissano of Mozambique, John Garang of Sudan, the late Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo and Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe, the late Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, the African Union and Ecowas. A few of the above African grandees should all have been awarded this coveted peace prize at some point in time, if at all peace making was the only factor determining who should receive the coveted prize. Zimbabwe’s Morgan Tsvangirai has been in the running for the top Prize for two years and has clearly been snubbed on both occasions. The writing is already on the wall, Tsvangirai is not going to get the elusive prize and perhaps it is high time his nomination is withdrawn for 2011.
Further, it is interesting to realise that Africa is the continent most bruised and affected by conflicts which justifiably, should make it an unparalleled front runner for the prestigious peace prize but nobody recognises this stratum of fact. However, Africa had its first recipient of the peace prize, Albert Luthuli of South Africa’s ANC in 1960, President Sadat of Egypt received the prize in 1978, followed by South Africa’s Desmond Tutu in 1984, Nelson Mandela and De Klerk of South Africa 1993, Kofi Annan UN 2001, Wangari Maathai of Kenya in 1984 and the last African winner was Egyptian Mohammed Elbaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2005.
The first Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in 1901, was accordingly shared between the Swiss founder of the Cross, Henry, and the French peace activist Frédéric Passy, one of the founders of the Inter-parliamentary Union. Ever since the granting of the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, some analysts have accused the Norwegian Nobel Committee selection process a farce, carefully orchestrated to benefit white middleclass Europeans and North Americans to a lesser extent, most of whom are superficially involved in peace processes in wars that are mostly funded by the West, which is paradoxical by an measure of logic. It was only later in the 20th century when the nominations and eventual granting of winners from outside Europe and America became common place.
The Nobel Peace Prize website clearly states that nominations are considered by the Nobel Committee at a meeting where a short list of candidates for further review is created. This short list is then considered by permanent advisers to the Nobel institute, which consists of the Institute's Director and the Research Director and a small number of Norwegian academics with expertise in subject areas relating to the prize. Advisers usually have some months to complete reports, which are then considered by the Committee to select the laureate. The Committee seeks to achieve a unanimous decision, but this is not always possible. The Nobel Committee typically comes to a conclusion in mid-September, but occasionally the final decision is not made until the last meeting before the official announcement at the beginning of every October. It is clear from the above guidelines that the selection committee has ample time to consider worthy winners of the prize instead of sidelining the African continent whose leaders and peoples have scarified so much to achieve peace in usually very hostile and complicated circumstances.
Every year when announcements of Nobel Peace Prize winners are made there is a high level of anticipation that some of the most deserving peace makers may be recognised, however, that anticipation and anxiety is normally dampened by surprises and disappointments. The argument regarding who should or should not get the Nobel peace Prize is not only controversial but very politically charged too. The surprise awarding of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to US President Obama, not only riled peace activists and analysts, but vindicated the argument that the Peace Prize is occasionally awarded to personalities rather than worthy peace activists, who possess the virtue and art of peace at heart. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner is jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who is yet to achieve his freedom and let alone that of oppressed Chinese and Tibetan people. Some analysts see the choice of this year’s selection committee (with respect to Xiaobo, a gallant fighter for human rights) as a sign of western belligerence towards China. China is gradually replacing US as the world’s dominant economic superpower, which may also affect the balance of power politically and militarily to its favour in a few years to come.
Some concerned commentators have suggested that the decision to award a prestigious international peace prize such as the Nobel Prize on the basis of unquantifiable contemporary opinion is fundamentally flawed and unjust, especially as many of the judges cannot themselves be said to be impartial observers in a polarised world. The Nobel Peace Prize has rewarded more people from the peaceful North at the expense of the largely unpeaceful and hostile South.
It has been argued in some quarters particularly in the developing world that, time has now come for the UN in conjunction with the Bill Gates, Richard Bransons, Warren Buffetts of this world to establish a credible and fair Peace Prize not to replace the generous Alfred Nobel Peace Prize but to complement it in a way that will see the most deserving people receive the prestigious prize. Morgan Tsvangirai and many other unsuccessful hopefuls will always feel unfairly treated not because the current and previous Nobel Peace Prize winners were undeserving, but at least be appreciated for the sterling work the man has done in bringing peace and salvation to a country almost condemned to the wilderness by the international community only a couple of years back. Some will disagree and argue that Tsvangirai’s efforts fall short of peace making as the country was still far from being peaceful and stable. There are of course those who see Tvangirai’s successive snubbing for the coveted Prize as nothing but a pattern that only rewards personalities in Africa with connections to the West not peace activists. For instance, it is not coincidental that half of Nobel Prize Winners in Africa are all South African of very high international standing yet both have all contributed to a single peace episode in South Africa. It is also true that Africans only have a realistic change of winning the Nobel Peace Prize as opposed to the other categories of prizes in Science, Economics and Humanitarianism where the issue of resources, exposure and other factors play a big part. This article should be perceived of as a challenge or eye opener to all those who genuinely fight for peace but have no recognition, the unsung heroes of Africa.
Aluta Continua, the struggle continues.
Crisford is a freelance journalist based in London, UK.