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Young African Poets Champion Peace for UN Peacekeeping’s 75th Anniversary

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By: 

Kingsley Ighobor

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of UN Peacekeeping Operations, young poets Pacifique Akilimali and Maryam Bukar Hassan collaborated on a powerful poem titled “Peace begins with me”.

The work stands as a testament to the resilience of communities scarred by conflict and the individuals dedicated to helping them rebuild.

The video launch of the poem took place on 14 September at the UN headquarters in New York, ahead of the International Day of Peace, which is celebrated annually on 21 September. 

Born amidst the turmoil of war in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Pacifique now serves in theUN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC. For him, peace is a distant dream, having grown up in a region that has seen relentless violence for decades. 

Maryam, hailing from Nigeria’s conflict-stricken state of Borno, echoes Pacifique’s sentiment, adding that peace encompasses justice, equality, and human dignity. Her state saw the tragic kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls, the Chibok girls, by Boko Haram. Many of these girls are still unaccounted for.

Their shared poem resonates globally, with figures like actor Michael Douglas and Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram voicing their verses. The poem’s message is clear – peace is both a collective and individual responsibility. 

Michael Douglas states, “Peace begins with every single one of us and, together, we can build a better future for all.”

Climate activist Xiye Bastida captures the essence of this sentiment, emphasizing that our actions today mold our future. 

The global commemoration also included influencers like Nigeria’s DJ Cuppy and the Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus, shedding light on various aspects of peace and conflict.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, praised peacekeepers as ordinary individuals achieving extraordinary outcomes. Their impact is evident in countries transitioning from conflict to peace, such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Timor-Leste. 

As part of a year-long campaign, “Peace Begins with Me” illustrates the transformative power of UN peacekeeping.

Pacifique’s personal journey offers a deeper understanding of the importance of peacekeeping. The Rwandan genocide of 1994 destabilized the DRC, leading to one of Africa’s deadliest conflicts. 

As a child, Pacifique faced moments of sheer terror, like when rebels captured him and his father. Fortunately, they were released unharmed. “I remember when the UN Mission came to my country,” he recalls, viewing them as harbingers of peace.

Maryam, on the other hand, celebrates the resilience and cultural richness of Borno, a state synonymous with violent extremism. Beyond the prevalent narrative of conflict, she sees a community that has, against all odds, found ways to thrive.

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