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Forum of Hope gives children space to speak for peace in Great Lakes region

By Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye

Restetuta Nabulya, a 13 year old peace ambassador from Uganda is overjoyed attending the Children’s Forum of Hope and she can’t hide it.

She believes the Forum is yet another opportunity for her and all the other children to express their views on peace building and contribute to their own wellbeing.

Restetuta has been a child rights advocate since the age of nine, something she does with a passion. Her opportunity to be part of the 52 children and adolescents from seven countries – Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Zambia and Uganda – who gathered in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, to take part in the Forum marks a broadening of her avenues of advocacy.

Article 12 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) stipulates that children have the right to be heard. Their views need to be considered too.

This year, as we celebrate 25 years since the commemoration of the CRC, various nations continue to give children a chance and platforms to share their views as well as contribute to pertinent issues that concern them.

The Children’s Forum of Hope provided a platform for 52 children and adolescents to deliberate on issues of peace and development in their countries and the region.

The Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Ms. Mary Robinson, who officially opened the Forum, agrees that children and young people have a special role to play in peace building.

“Everyone has a role and responsibility to achieve long term peace,” asserts Ms. Robinson.

In Uganda, the eight children selected from all parts of the country discussed and articulated issues on peace at a national conference. The children shared their own experiences and came up with ways to contribute to peace building right from their homes. All ideas were compiled into a memorandum that contained strong messages that they carried and shared with other delegates at the Forum.

The Forum was an opportunity for participants from the seven countries to share ideas, experiences as well as work together towards one goal – a peaceful Great Lakes region.

Children expressed their views through drawings, paintings, music, dance, drama, recordings and written messages to depict the peaceful world they want. It was a child-friendly meeting.

The peace ambassadors from Uganda, who were accompanied by the Minister of State for the Elderly and Disability Affairs, Hon. Sulaiman Madada and the Minister of State for Primary Education, Hon. Kamanda Bataringaya, also participated in a question and answer session with Ms. Robinson and urged her to continue providing such opportunities that give children a chance to voice their concerns.

“Peace building is a gradual process. It is therefore important to involve the young generation to understand and appreciate why and how peace is synonymous with development. There is no today without yesterday, neither is there tomorrow without today,” Hon. Madada said while addressing the gathering at the closing ceremony.

Energised and equipped with ideas on peace building, the eight Ugandan peace ambassadors have vowed to take this forward by starting peace clubs in their respective schools. “Peace begins with us,” they state.  

As Restetuta Nabulya states, with a beam: “Children should always be given a chance to speak out their mind because they have brilliant ideas and usually speak the truth.” The Forum of Hope offers the new environment that is promising to allow children to contribute to the realisation of total peace in the Great Lakes region.



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