Workshop: Women’s Role in Building Peace & Security
Hotel Centrale, Sokode
Wednesday Dec. 20, 2017
Monsieur the Prefect
Monsieur the Mayor
Monsieur the Spirtual Chief
Monsieur the Imam of Sokode
Representatives of the different political parties
Leaders of civil society organizations
Members of the community
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for being here. It is a great honor for me to be with you this morning for the launch of this important workshop. I would like to begin by thanking all the organizers for working so hard to put this event together – especially Mrs. Rachel Boyindjo of Dimension Humaine. Let’s applaud them.
Ladies and gentlemen, the great author Victor Hugo once wrote that “even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” I know that Sokode has been going through a dark night. It is a dark night that has lasted almost six months. And I offer you my deepest sympathies for the death and destruction, and the pain and the humiliation that the people of Sokode and nearby communities have suffered during this dark night.
Today, we hope that the long night is ending and the sun is beginning to rise in Sokode. It is rising because the people of Sokode – including the authorities – want peace and dialogue in place of an endless cycle of violence and repression.
But it is not enough simply to want peace. We have to work together to achieve peace, like we are doing here today. Some people think that it takes bravery to take up arms and to fight against enemies, and that can be true. But I believe it takes as much or more bravery to resist calls to violence. It takes courage to say, I will find common ground with my opponent so that we can find solution to the problems we are facing. This is a courageous act, and I want to congratulate everyone in this room for having the courage to come together to work for peace.
It will not be easy. Because of Togo’s history, there is a great deal of mistrust. You can only begin to break down that mistrust through dialogue and increasing understanding of one another. An honest dialogue is based on mutual respect, and thus I encourage you to listen carefully and respectfully to all viewpoints. I urge you as well to be honest in diagnosing the problems and to propose solutions that are practical and realistic.
As you go forward, remember always that no one cares more about your community and the future of your children than you do. There are elements that want to see Sokode descend back into violence, because it serves their interests. But it does not serve yours. Some people that are sharing hateful messages on social media and rejecting calls for dialogue, they are not the ones who cannot receive a money transfer because the post is burned down, or cannot hold a public meeting because the Office of Social Affairs is burned down, or cannot sleep at night because Soldiers are searching through houses. So I urge you to reject those voices, and listen to the ones who are proposing concrete, realistic solutions that will improve your lives and the lives of your children.
I will close by echoing some word from the great Nelson Mandela, who of course went through his own long, dark night, and helped his country to see the sun rise.
Mandela said, looking back at the end of the Apartheid era: “We were expected to destroy one another and ourselves collectively in the worst racial conflagration. Instead, we as a people chose the path of negotiation, compromise and peace. Instead of hatred and revenge we chose reconciliation and nation-building.”
I commend those in this room today for incarnating Nelson Mandela’s message. I assure you that as you go about the hard, difficult work of building peace, the US and other international partners are with you, we are with Sokode, and we will continue to support your quest for peace, stability and prosperity for your community.
Thank you once again