Friday, July 22, 2011

The Nobel Peace Prize and Africans

The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the most respected awards in the world today. According to the Nobel Peace Prize website, It is given to those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.
As a Kenyan, it came as a very pleasant surprise when Prof. Wangari Maathai won the 2004 Peace Prize-A classical case of a hero not being recognized at home, yet she has sacrificed a lot in the fields searching for democratic space and in the fight for human rights. Such is the aura that comes with the prize, that she is now the most famous Kenyan in the world.
As an African, I’ve been curious to know how many Africans have been awarded this prize in the past, especially because the recent African history is a negative history of colonization, neo-colonization and imperialism, which has brought out necessary and positive resistance in the African. In this resistance, societies have risen, and are still rising against the brutes of colonization, neo-colonization, imperialism and other manifestations of capitalism.
As the African societies rebel, certain individuals within the societies are brought forth to the frontlines of these struggles, struggles that at times become bloody, with the intention of putting an end to the further spilling of blood. These individuals become the beacons of hope, they become the symbol of peace, they become the African heroes.
So if for the past 100 years (since the inception of the Nobel Peace Prize) Africa has faced a lot misery, probably the worst misery in the world, then Africa should also produce a lot, and probably the most candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize.

It was in this search that I happened to discuss with a friend of mine about the essence of these awards, the politics of these awards, the missing names in the Nobel Peace prize list (the friend was actually furious that the likes of Fidel Castro- and Julius Nyerere were never given the Prize, in spite of their enormous contributions to peace in the world-Africa) and we also discussed the Lenin peace prize, which, in the then clear bi-polar era, was awarded from the USSR.
On comparing the two awards with respect to the recognition of the African contributions to peace, this is what I sieved from Wikipedia:

Nobel Peace Prize
Lenin Peace Prize
1.       Albert Luthuli-South Africa
Sekou Toure-Guinea
1.      Anwar Sadat-Egypt
Kwame Nkurmah-Ghana
2.      Desmond Tutu-South Africa
Modibo Keita-Mali
3.       Nelson Mandela-South Africa-1993
Peter Ayodele-Nigeria
4.       FW De Klerk-South Africa
Bram Fischer-South Africa
5.       Koffi Anaan -Ghana
Shafie Ahmed El Sheikh-Sudan
6.       Wangari Maathai-Kenya
Hikmat Abu Zayd-Egypt
7.       Mohammed Elbaradei-Egpyt
Jeanne Martin-Cisse-Guinea
Samora Machel-Mozambique
Aghostino Neto-Angola
Abdal Rahman Al Sharqawi-Egypt
Julius Nyerere-Tanzania
Nelson Mandela-South Africa-1990

South Africa dominates the two lists, with Nelson Mandela appearing on both lists.

 Two of the South Africans are white; F.W de Klerk (Nobel Peace Prize) and Bram Fischer (Lenin Peace Prize). While FW de Klerk dedicated the better part of his life discriminating against the Blacks in South Africa and building the apartheid system, Bram Fischer dedicated his life fighting oppression and the Racist Apartheid regime of South Africa, and fighting for the emancipation of the South African workers and peasants. It was the likes of Bram Fischer, Joe Slovo, Ruth First and other whites (mostly members of the South African Communist Party) who saved South Africa from the blanket classification of the whites with apartheid and fascism.

Here is Mandela’s speech on receiving the Lenin Peace Prize award 12 years later:

“It is a rare occasion to finally be able to accept an award that had been made long ago under circumstances and from institutions that have since changed quite radically.
We are deeply moved by this occasion where we can at last receive in person the Lenin Prize.
Much has changed in the world since that award was given to us, but the world's need for the human solidarity, which that generous gesture demonstrated, remains as much as ever. It is in that spirit that we receive this award and that it honours us so much to accept it.
It reminds us again of the international dimension of our struggle against apartheid. Like few other liberation struggles ours enjoyed the support if virtually all political persuasions in all parts of the world. The world's abhorrence at the indignity and inhumanity of racial oppression was such that it identified with our struggle as one of all humankind.
Within that international support for our struggle the Soviet Union and other socialist countries stood out. The governments and peoples of the socialist bloc gave material, moral and political support to our struggle in a manner and on a scale that we will never be able to repay.
The world has changed since then and the Soviet Union and the other then existing socialist states of Eastern Europe have disappeared. It is not for us to lament developments that the people of those countries wished for and welcomed. Neither is it for us, however, to deny the value of the support we received from those countries or to mask the immense appreciation we had for those countries.
That we receive the Lenin Prize in such radically changed circumstances may in fact be symbolic of the revolutionary spirit in which it was intended. It may very well inspire us in the spirit of Lenin to radically adapt our methods to the changed circumstances and to seek what is best for the masses of the people rather than holding desperately to preconceived receipes.
As we remember the support from the Soviet Union and the socialist states, it is fitting that we also pay tribute to our historic partnership with the South African Communist Party.
We remember how South African communists came to the material support of the ANC at a time when the police were raiding our offices almost on a daily basis, depleting us of our resources to pay our full-time officials. We can never forget those concrete acts of solidarity.
The SACP has been trustworthy and dependable allies over decades as part of our movement in all its formations. Our relationship with the Soviet Union and the socialist world had much to do with their presence in our ranks.
As we receive the Lenin Prize today we do so in celebration of human solidarity. In a world where the poor seem to be getting poorer and the divide between the have's and have-not's is widening, we need global commitment to the value of human solidarity.
The methods and approaches to achieve a more equitable world might have changed. The problems of gross inequality and of poverty remain. Let us all recommit ourselves to building a world where there will be a better life for all.
I thank you for the honour of awarding me a prize in the name of a revolutionary that history will never be able to forget.
I thank you.”

It is interesting that Hikmat Abu Zayd(Lenin Peace Prize,1970) was forced into exile by Anwar Sadat (Nobel Peace Prize, 1978).
Anwar Sadat was assassinated because of signing a treaty with Israel.

Julius Nyerere, who contributed immensely (and at a great risk) to the freedom of the South African countries, and who later became a pivotal peace facilitator in the great lakes region was recognized and awarded the Lenin Peace Price in 1986. Fidel Castro was also awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1961.
As for the African abroad, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Ralph Bunche, Martin Luther King and Barrack Obama. The Lenin Peace Prize has WEB Du Bois, Paul Robenson and Nicolas Guillen.
It is important to note here that the Lenin Peace Prize wound up with the fall of the USSR, and the last award was Mandela’s in 1990. As at 1990, the Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded to three Africans only, while the Lenin Peace Prize had been awarded to 12 Africans.

Barrack Obama was awarded the prize in 2009, for reasons which even he himself could not understand.

From the comparison above, it is clear that the USSR, even in the state of revisionism, was far far much ahead of the Western/Capitalist world, in terms of Respecting the African people and identifying the true African Peace makers.
But we as Africans should come up with our own continental-wide method of recognizing those who contribute the most in liberating our motherland from wars and misery that are brought about by the system that we are living in today, and moreso those who are working to uproot that system and build a new free and truly democratic Africa.

Benedict Wachira
22 July 2011


  1. a general glance at the nobel peace prize awardees will betray their capitalistic 'western' ideals...indeed, it is only those who are not socailist, culturalists, or traditionalists who will get the prize. it does not matter what africans do, unless they hail the beauty of the western political and economic systems, and do it in english, or such acceptable language...why, for instance, would the recalcitrant writings of Wole Soyinka rise above the african empowering scripts of Ngungi wa Thiong'o? simple, Ngugi is clearly anti-westernisation...and for that, his recent masterpiece, Wizard of the Crow, failed to get him the Prize...we need the Lenin Prize resciciatated, or better still, we need an african prize...think samora, think lumumba, think Nyerere!!!

  2. Yes Ojijo, agreed. We should have our own International award!