Ambassador David Gilmour’s Remarks at the Opening Ceremony: Youth on the Move for Social Cohesion in Sokode

Ambassador Remarks
Opening Ceremony
Opening Ceremony: Youth on the Move for Social Cohesion in Sokode
CLAC, Sokode
Friday, November 16, 2018

Monsieur the Minister
Monsieur the Prefect
Monsieur the Mayor
Monsieur the Spirtual Chief
Monsieur the Imam of Sokode
Monsieur the representative of GIZ
Monsieur the country manager of Catholic Relief services
Monsieur the Director General of Moov
Monsieur the Regional Director of Culture
Leaders of civil society organizations
Dear participants
Members of the community
Honored guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am honored to be here to take part in this important ceremony. It gives me great pleasure to see such a big and diverse representation of the community gathered here today. I think it speaks to a shared willingness to work together for the development of the city and the region, and it is this willingness that we are here to celebrate today, through the project “Youth of Sokode on the move for Social Cohesion.”

We all know that Sokode has endured a very difficult period. I do not need to recount to you the terrible events of last August and the panful and tense months that followed. Even today, there are elements who want to continue to exploit the divisions and the tensions in Sokode, because it serves their interests. Just a few weeks ago Sokode was again on the verge of violence – though I’m very glad that the community responded with restraint and refused to be provoked.

And this brings us to the fundamental question: When you live in this kind of difficult environment how do you respond?

One way is to give in to the voices calling for violence, to lash out in anger as we saw during riots last year. But what does this approach gain in the end? The famous American human rights leader Martin Luther King wrestled with this issue as well. King led the movement for the rights of African-Americans in the U.S. in the 1960s, and some of his supporters in the movement called for violence to achieve their objectives.  King rejected this approach. “In spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace,” king said.

So, King chose the other path. King’s approach was to embrace non-violent protest as a means of creating social change. Not simply to reject violence but to work actively for peace, and justice, and social cohesion.

Ladies and gentlemen, the project “Youth of Sokode on the Move for Social Cohesion” is based on the same philosophy. It is based on the concept that each member of the community can contribute actively and positively to peace and inclusive development in Sokode.

Last month, our partners at CRS organized a series of workshops for 100 youth of Sokode from different communities. And during these workshops the youth rejected definitively the path of violence and pledged to work together despite their differences for a common cause.

These young people are very ambitious to get to work restoring trust and hope in the community. And to support them, today I am proud to present checks that will fund five connector projects. These connector projects will enable the youth to apply what they learned in these workshops to promote social cohesion.

In addition, we know that for people to work together for community development, they need a place to gather and to organize themselves. After the destruction of the headquarters of Social Affairs last year, it has been difficult to find such places. Today, I am honored to announce that the U.S. Embassy has funded the renovation of the animation room within the CLAC. This space will henceforth serve as a community center and a hub for social cohesion.

My dear friends, I know that difficult days remain ahead, but I draw hope and inspiration from the young people who have participated in this program. I pledge that the U.S. embassy will do all it can to support them in their efforts to create a more peaceful and prosperous future for all the people of Sokode.

Thank you once again