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Blessed are the peace makers

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By Owei Lakemfa

THE  Nobel prize awarded to American President, Barack Obama  on October 9, 2009 was for peace but it has since turned into an international war of words. Ironically, the award news came to Obama while he was holding a war cabinet. It was over the Afghan war he inherited from his predecessor, the war monger, George. W. Bush.

Obama had upped the stakes in Afghanistan by ordering a troop upsurge. As we know, the peace ambassador is fighting another war in Iraq and a proxy one in Pakistan.

The main controversy was whether at this point he deserves the award. The argument  is  that  while Obama came into office on January 20 having no antecedents as a peace maker,  the nominations for the prize closed on February 1, 2009. So what was the criteria for his nomination in the first place?

The Norwagian  Nobel Committee which made the award said it did so because “in the past year Obama  has been a key person for important initiatives in the UN for nuclear disarmament and to set a completely new agenda for the Muslim world and East-West relations”.  While this analysis cannot be faulted, the problem is, all these were this year, not in the “past year”.

This contradicts the purpose of the prize as enunciated by its founder Alfred Nobel who in his will stated that the prizes should go “to those who,  during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind”. It is unhelpful for us, Obama supporters, to argue that political considerations had not coloured this award.

The Obama award is actually one made by futurologists. In the “meltdown” terminology, the award is a promissory note, an IOU which he is expected to pay back, possibly with interests.

But this is not the first time the Peace Prize would be awarded on a promissory note. The Prize in 1978 was shared by Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Isreal’s Menachem Begin. The hope that this will bring peace to the Middle East did not materialise. In fact Sadat was gunned down at home for signing the Camp David Peace Accord, and today 31 years later, peace has not come to the Palestine.

This gambit was repeated in 1994 when the Prize was awarded to Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin with the same hope that peace will come to the Middle East. Rather, Rabin was gunned down in Israel for signing the peace accord with the Palestinians.

But the Nobel Committee got it right when it awarded the Prize in 1993 to anti- Apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela and Apartheid Prime Minister, F W de Klerk. The fact in this case was that the process of decolonization and democracy in South Africa had become irreversible before the award was made.

A number of the peace awards have been well thought out such as the 1964 one to American Martin  Luther King Jnr, that of 1979 to Mother Teresa, the 1984 version to South African Desmond Tutu,  the 1991 edition to Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyii and 2004 to Kenyan Wangari Maathai.  The Peace Prize to organisations like  the  Red Cross(1944)  UNHCR (1954) UNICEF(1965), ILO(1969) and Medecins Sans Frontieres (1999) are obviously well deserved.

But Nobel prizes essentially have  political under-currents. That for Economics usually go to those who deepen the capitalist economic system .The one for Literature mainly to people who glorify Western values or are critical of anti-Western societies like the defunct USSR.

Of all the prizes, the most politically partisan is that for peace. While supervising the subversion of the Congolese people’s sovereignty and the house arrest of its democratically elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, the then Secretary General of the UN, Dag Hammarskjold was killed in an air crash. To compensate him for his ignoble role which until today has seen the Congo in crises, the Peace Prize was given to Hammarskjold posthumously.

Henry Kissinger was a major architect in the wholesale massacre of civilians in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. He was a war criminal. Inexplicably, he was awarded the Peace Prize along with Vietnamese leader Le Duc Tho ostensibly for signing a ceasefire accord in Paris.  A   shocked Tho whose people were still being massacred by America, rejected the prize.

Lech Walesa, the Polish trade unionist was given the prize in 1983 not for any peace initiative or a commitment to non-violence, but for assisting the West to bring down the communist government in his country.  Logically, Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev got the prize in 1990 for beginning the process of dismantling the Socialist bloc and the Warsaw Pact, and giving birth to a unipolar world in place of the existing bipolar world.

The pretext used by  America and its allies  to invade Iraq was that Sadam Hussein had nuclear weapons. The body that assisted in this deceit was the International Atomic Energy  Agency led by Mohammed El Baradei. It was not surprising that both shared the Peace Prize for 2005.

Perhaps what could have constituted the greatest insult on the world was if the 2009 prize had been awarded to the Western stooge and intemperate Zimbabwean Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai as was speculated before Obama was announced.

Still on the politics of Nobel prizes, has anybody wondered why the world’s acknowledged non –violence prophet and advocate, Mahatma Ghandi was never considered good enough for the peace prize? Simple, he was an implacable enemy of colonialism and was seen as capable of influencing other countries still under colonial rule.

Given the politics surrounding the Nobel prizes, it is not surprising that apart from Le Duc Tho in  1973, there are others who rejected the prizes. Boris Pasternak, the famous Russian writer rejected the Literature Prize in 1958 as did the French genius Jean-Paul Sarte in 1964.

It is said that blessed are the peace makers. I want to appeal to all world wide, to hold their peace and let Obama collect his award. I hope this my appeal will make me eligible for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

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