The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS; and also known as CEDEAO French and Portuguese) is a regional political and economic union of fifteen countries located in West Africa. Its main activities are connected with regional politics, economic and social questions in the region. But, the organization also does cultural activities such as supporting exhibitions, traditional arts and music, and offer public recognition to outstanding personalities.
In February, the ECOWAS officials gathered in Yamoussoukro to witness the Award Ceremony of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny-UNESCO Peace Prize. Many might have remembered the popular name – Félix Houphouët-Boigny – who was politician and physician, and later became the president of Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa. He served that country from 1960 until his death in 1993, according to his biography. Born in October 5, 1905.
Cote d’Ivoire, with an attractive beautiful sandy coastline, has a current estimated population of 25 million and its citizens are French-speakers. Côte d’Ivoire is a stunner, shingled with starfish-studded sands, palm-tree forests and roads so orange they resemble strips of bronzing powder. This is a true tropical paradise.
But what is important here is that Félix Houphouët-Boigny did a lot for his native country and its people. The Félix Houphouët-Boigny-UNESCO Peace Prize, named after the first President of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, was established in 1989 by a resolution unanimously adopted by 120 UNESCO Member States. It honours living individuals and active public or private institutions or organizations worldwide that have made a significant contribution to promoting, seeking, safeguarding or maintaining peace.
The 2022 Prize was awarded to Mrs Angela Merkel, former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany on 8 February during a special ceremony held in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire. H.E. Mrs Fanta Cissé, ECOWAS Resident Representative in Cote d’Ivoire, took part in the official Award Ceremony of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny-UNESCO Peace Prize.
According to reports, the well-constituted jury awarded the 2022 Prize to Mrs. Angela Merkel, former Federal Chancellor of Germany, for granting asylum and protection to more than one million people fleeing the war in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea, in 2015, when she was still in office.
Speaking during the occasion, President Alassane Ouattara noted that the hosting of the ceremony in Yamoussoukro was an opportunity to celebrate the efforts made to preserve the peace that was so dear to the Founding Father of the Ivorian Nation, while emphasizing the legendary hospitality of Cote d’Ivoire both in times of crisis and in times of peace.
He also congratulated and commended the Prize Winner, highlighting her leadership both in Germany and around the world, and her values of courage, humanism and solidarity.
The ceremony featured several other addresses, notably by the Director-General of UNESCO, President Macky Sall, representing Mr Abdou Diouf, former President of the Republic of Senegal and Patron of the Prize, and former President Henri Konan Bedie, Sponsor of the Prize. They all commended the leadership of the Prize Winner, Mrs Angela Merkel, her courage, humanism and sense of solidarity. They also called for efforts towards building a better world.
After receiving her Prize, consisting of a certificate and a medal, from President Alassane Ouattara and Mrs. Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mrs Angela Merkel donated the accompanying cash prize, worth $150,000 to “SOS Enfance en danger”, an NGO based in Cote d’Ivoire.
The jury also awarded an “honourable mention” to Mrs Julienne Lusenge, President of the NGO “Solidarité féminine pour la paix et le développement intégral,” for her commitment to women who were victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The ceremony ended with a group photograph and a reception hosted by the presidential couple.
The ceremony, chaired by Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, was attended by several Heads of State including Umaru Sissoco Embalo, President of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, and Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government; Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana; George Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia; and Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal, and Chairperson of the African Union.
Former Presidents Henri Konan Bédié and Laurent Gbagbo, Mrs Thérèse Houphouët-Boigny, Tiémoko Meyliet Koné, Vice-President of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, Patrick Achi, Prime Minister of Cote d’Ivoire, Heads of State Institutions, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, and the Director-General of UNESCO, Mrs Audrey Azoulay were also present at the important ceremony.