Leymah Gbowee

Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate, interviewed by the Peace Palace Library in 2013

As Africa and its diaspora commemorate fifty years of post-independence Pan-Africanism, Adekeye Adebajo's new book Africa's Peace Makers: Nobel Peace Laureates of African Descent (London; New York, Zed Books) provides profound insight into the thirteen prominent individuals of African descent who have won the Nobel Peace Prize since 1950. From the first American president of African descent, Barack Obama, whose career was inspired by the civil rights and anti-apartheid struggles promoted by fellow Nobel Peace laureates Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Albert Luthuli; to influential figures in peacemaking such as Ralph Bunche, Anwar Sadat, Kofi Annan, and Frederik Willem De Klerk; as well as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, Wangari Maathai, and Mohamed El-Baradei, who have been variously involved in women's rights, environmental protection, and nuclear disarmament, Africa's Peacemakers reveals how this remarkable collection of individuals has changed the world.

The book, dedicated to South Africa’s esteemed Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), is a collection of abridged biographical essays. The collection is an attempt to, in the words of Adebajo, “draw lessons for peacemaking, civil rights, socio-economic justice, environmental protection, nuclear disarmament and women’s rights” against a backdrop of what Kenyan scholar, Ali Mazrui famously described in 1967 as a Pax Africana, ‘an African-owned peace’. The thirteen Nobel Peace laureates examined in this volume are thus, in a real sense, prophets of Pax Africana.

The African laureates come from diverse backgrounds, but have waged similar struggles for peace, justice and freedom. Liberia, for instance, has produced the two most recent Nobel Peace laureates, president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. On August 28, 2013, Leymah Gbowee was invited to the Peace Palace to unveil the bust of Bertha von Suttner during the Centenary celebrations of the Peace Palace. On that occasion, we took the opportunity of Ms Gbowee's presence to interview her. On the Peace Palace, she said:

"The Peace Palace is a representation of the human dimension of peace. I mean the idea of people to sit and talk about their differences and resolve it through the Court of Arbitration instead of wars. This is something that the world has lost. We’ve lost our ability to sit and dialogue when we have issues. We’ve lost our ability to contextualize conflict in a way that shows the human side, who’s dying and who’s going hungry. We have come to a place in our world where peace, conflict and all of the related matters, thematic areas and concerns are documented in statistics and policies. I think the idea of this place is to remind us of our shared humanity and our ability to relate to one another as humanly as possible. For me it is the celebration, with all the pomp and pageantry of the day, it is a reflective moment, a time for us to reflect on how we can go back to a world where wars and conflict are not fought on the bodies of people and how we can go back to a world that was envisaged by the visionaries of the Peace Palace. It’s a time of reflection, how do we go back a 100 years in to rethinking how peace is done."

In Adebajo's Africa's Peacemakers, chapter 15 "Leymah Gbowee: the Prayerful Peace Warrior" by Rosaline Daniel is dedicated to the exemplary achievements of Ms Gbowee. In her article, Daniel concludes that "while not enough time has passed to assess the full impact of her work on peace and reconciliation in Liberia, Gbowee's Nobel Prize-winning effort to promote the non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for their right to full participation in peacebuilding is indeed a worthy legacy."

Africa's Peacemakers is an illuminating and well-researched volume to be read widely by all those interested in the Nobel Peace Prize winners of African descent, either for its own sake or for better appreciating the varying shades of anti-violence struggles against oppression, injustice and human rights violations that these eminent people have championed. Available in our Online catalogue, here.

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A selection of relevant publications from the Peace Palace Library collection

Table of contents

•Adekeye, A., Africa’s Peacemakers: Nobel Peace Laureates of African Descent, London; New York, Zed Books, 2014.I: Introduction 1. Obama’s Nobel Ancestors: From Bunche to Barack and Beyond - Adekeye Adebajo 2. Barack Obama: Between Racial Compatriots and Nobel Ancestors -  Ali A. Mazrui

II: The Three African-Americans 3. Ralph Bunche: The Scholar-Diplomat - James Jonah 4. Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Great Provocateur - Lee A. Daniels 5. Ralph Bunche, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama: Three African-American Nobel Laureates Debate War and Peace - Pearl Robinson

III: The Four South Africans 6. Albert Luthuli: The African Moses - Chris Saunders 7. Desmond Tutu: The Wounded Healer - Maureen Isaacson 8. Nelson Mandela: The Oratory of the Black Pimpernel - Elleke Boehmer 9. Frederik Willem de Klerk: The Pragmatic Peacemaker - Gregory Houston

IV: The Two Egyptians 10. Anwar Sadat: The Tragic Peacemaker - Boutros Boutros-Ghali 11. Mohamed El-Baradei: The Rocket Man - Morad Abou-Sabé

V: The Kenyan and the Ghanaian 12. Wangari Maathai: The Earth Mother - Janice Golding 13. Kofi Annan: The Soft-Spoken Prophet - Gwendolyn Mikell

VI: The Two Liberians 14. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: The Iron Lady - Adekeye Adebajo 15. Leymah Gbowee: The Prayerful Peace Warrior - Rosaline Daniel

About the author

Dr. Adekeye Adebajo has been Executive Director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution, Cape Town, South Africa, since 2003. He previously served as Director of the Africa Programme of the New York-based International Peace Institute, when he was also an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). He also served on United Nations missions in South Africa, Western Sahara, and Iraq. He obtained his doctorate from Oxford University in England, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. He is the author of four books, and the editor or co-editor of a further seven.

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