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The Role of African Writers in Realizing SDG 16

Article by: Dr Wale Okediran |



Wale Okediran
Author:Dr Wale Okediran
Secretary General, Pan African Writers Association (PAWA)
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The Pan African Writers Association (PAWA), a leading Pan African Cultural Institution accorded full diplomatic status by the Government of Ghana in 1992, is made up of the 52 national writers associations on the continent, and seeks to contribute its quota to moral, cultural and intellectual renaissance in Africa. It is an important voice of the African, while seeking to restore to our people, confidence in themselves as African and reinforcing the vision for a common African home. It is the wide spread of PAWA across African countries as well as its diplomatic status in Ghana that has enabled the organization to interact effectively with African writers and governments. This can be considered PAWA'S strength.

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According to the United Nations, SDG 16 is about the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all and the building of effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. SDG 16 also focuses on how to significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere. SDG 16 is very relevant in a global age beset by wars, insecurity, human displacement, coups and insurgency.

SDG Goal 16
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Apart from long-standing cases of civil wars and insurgencies in parts of the world and especially in Africa -Ethiopia, Libya, South Sudan, Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria and Congo Kinshasa among others - the past two years have witnessed seven coups and coup attempts in African nations. In Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mali, and Sudan, military leaders succeeded in seizing power while they failed in Niger and Guinea-Bissau.

Africa's current wave of coups began in August 2020 after former Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was arrested at gunpoint by government forces. The subsequent series of African coups share some commonalities such as political and economic instability and weak democratic institutions.

In Mali and Burkina Faso, for example, the governments were dealing with violent extremism from ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliates in the Sahel. Between 2020 and 2021, according to recent reports, attacks in the region by militant Islamist organizations increased 70 percent, from 1,180 to 2,005.

In terms of the differences, in Mali and Burkina Faso, the juntas have claimed that insecurity and an instability with threats from violent extremist groups has precipitated the coups. In Guinea-Bissau for example, the recent attempted coup is one of many since the nation gained its independence from Portugal. The nation has struggled to establish democratic traditions and institutions; notably, President Umaro Sissoco Embalo - the man whom the failed coup tried to oust - came to power in 2020 after a contested election, which was still being reviewed by the nation's Supreme Court when Embalo took office.

And in Guinea, a separate country that borders the smaller Guinea-Bissau, last year's successful coup came after President Alpha Conde changed the constitution and mounted a power grab that gave him a third term in office. Although he initially won a democratic election in 2010 - the first Guinean leader to do so - his power grab, combined with corruption and deep inequality, apparently provided the impetus the military needed to mount a takeover last September.

It is these kinds of unrests and insurgencies, confirmed by several authorities as being a threat to the African continent, that PAWA was able to address at her 2022 Conference.

Conference pics
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Various international think tanks and organizations including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have convened several times to discuss the unrest described by the ECOWAS Chair, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, as "contagious" and a threat to the entire region. Even though some countries as well as ECOWAS have imposed a series of economic and cultural sanctions against the erring countries, the spate of unrests and insurgency still linger on in many of the affected countries.

It was for this reason that the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA) in 2022, organized an international conference where writers, statesmen and policy makers from about 40 African countries gathered to proffer solutions to the above-named challenges under the theme: The Role of the Writer in a Pan African Agenda for Peace and Security. The Conference which is also in line with Article 9 of PAWA's Aims and Objectives - To Promote Peace and Understanding In Africa and the World through Literature - took place at the Conference Centre, University Of Ibadan, Nigeria, June 23rd - June 26th 2022.

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As a child, reading filled the gaps in my learning. Those things that school and my parents missed, I accessed through reading. Reading stoked my curiosity and introduced me to an astounding breadth of subjects. I looked forward to visits to the bookshop to pick out new books for myself and developed a regular reading habit which I still maintain as an adult. As a bookshop owner now, I am conscious of the responsibility that we carry to provide interesting and plentiful books to attract young children and to encourage in them a love for letters since I know from my personal experience that young readers are more likely to remain life-long readers and learners.

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The conference, organized in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the maiden edition of the African Literature And Writers Conference which took place in Kampala, Uganda in 1962, was conducted in a hybrid version (Physical and Virtual)

It was attended by writers, academicians and diplomats from 40 African countries and the Diaspora that included; Ghana, Congo Kinshasa, Togo, Nigeria, Gabon, Cameroun, Zambia, Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Ethiopia, Morocco, Rwanda, Sudan, Egypt, Liberia, Mauritania, South Africa, Tanzania, Chad, Botswana, Burundi, Benin, Somaliland, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Niger, Equatorial Guinea, Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Gambia and Mozambique.

Even though African Literature has come of age in literary productivity and achievements in all genres, the conference helped to define and forge a meaningful path for its future. The conference also considered the role of African Writers in a Pan African Agenda for Cultural Development, Peace and Security against the backdrop of a continent in the grips of insurgencies, wars and coups. In a global age beset by wars, insecurity, human displacement, coups and insurgency, the conference could not have come at a better time. It was conducted in Arabic, English, French, Portuguese and Swahili which are the five working Languages of PAWA.

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Since PAWA is a continental body made up of writers from all over Africa, the primary geographical region of focus will be Africa with some extension to countries outside Africa which still have very strong economic and cultural control over the affected African countries. The justification for this kind of approach is the fact that writers, as the conscience of society, cannot afford to fold their arms and watch unfortunate incidents in their mother countries without adding their voices for moderation. In addition, since the world has become a global village due to the ability of ripples of insurgency to have collateral effects in other countries, the potentially 'contagious' incidents need to be nipped at their bud.

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PAWA's long - term goal is to see a significant reduction in the amount of unrests and insurgencies in the African continent.

The changes expected at this level will be a gradual reduction in the spate of unrests and insurgencies through the use of dialogue rather than violence among the key actors in the troubled areas in solving their problems. A concomitant improvement in the quality of governance by the political leaders is also expected as pre-requisite for a more peaceful relationship between the Government and the governed. These developments will hopefully materialize as a result of the recommendations from our Conference which will be to encourage more dialogue in the resolution of issues, for a reduction in the level of social problems such as poverty and to promote good governance in the land.

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In view of the plurality in the languages of the conference, the 456- page book was published in English, French and Arabic. The book will be released to the public during the celebration of the International African Writers Day coming up between November 4th - November 8th 2023 in Djibouti City, Djibouti.

The event, conducted in Arabic, English, French, Portuguese and Swahili, the five working Languages of PAWA, was well attended and produced a communique and blueprint of actions expected to address the problems to be discussed. These documents have since been shared through advocacy visits by PAWA members in their respective countries to political, community, religious and civil society leaders.

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The Ibadan Conference of African Writers' Pan-African Agenda for Peace, Security and Cultural Development kick-started around 10:25am by a crew of MCs who addressed the audience in English, French and Arabic languages. The conference, teeming with delegates, participants, guests, youths and a team of reporters, began with introduction of Special Guests of Honour, namely the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, ably represented by Director-General of Dawn Commission, Hon. Seye Oyeleye; President of Pan-African Writers' Association (PAWA), Mr John Rusumbi; President, Nigerian Academy of Letters, Prof Duro Oni; Chief Director, Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC), Ghana, Mr John Agbeko; Chairman of the occasion, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof Kayode Adebowale. Others include Vice President of PAWA, Prof Anate; Secretary-General of PAWA, Dr Wale Okediran and President of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Mr Camilus Ukah. Also present were other eminent scholars and icons as well as important dignitaries across the nation and continent. They include distinguished literary critic, Prof Dan Izevbaye; the iconic historian, Prof Toyin Falola; former Minister of Education, notable publisher, 2 Literature Since Makerere 1962 Chief Joop Berkhout; Prof Akachi Ezeigbo; Prof Tunde Adeniran; former President of ANA, PAWA, Prof Femi Osofisan; former Deans of the Faculty of Arts, U.I., Prof Ademola Dasylva and Prof Afiz Oladosu; former Director, Distance Learning Centre and renowned linguist, Prof Francis Egbokhare; Secretary, Nigerian Academy of Letters, Prof Ayobami Kehinde; Mallam Densa Abdullahi and a host of others.

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All the speakers and lecturers at the conference agreed that African writers and literature are critical to the complete decolonization and development of Africa. Therefore, the following recommendations emerged from the conference:

  1. There is need to resolve the controversy surrounding the language of African literature by adopting an eclectic approach which recognizes the advantages of writing African literature in the European languages as well as in indigenous African languages.
  2. The global spread of African literature can be achieved through translation.
  3. African writers should take advantage of new online platforms to propagate their works and to educate 21st century readers.
  4. Critics of African literature should develop Africa-based theories to discuss African literature.
  5. African female writers should continue to privilege issues of female emancipation, social justice and gender equity, and celebrate the role of African women as critical stakeholders in the continent.
  6. African literature should be made relevant to contemporary African challenges such as issues of public and domestic violence, war, terrorism, peace-building and conflict management and resolution and security.
  7. There is need to develop an accessible archive of African literature.
  8. There should be increased collaboration among African writers, critics, writers' associations and publishers.
  9. African literature should be seen as critical to the development of Africa.
  10. The rights of African writers should be safeguarded.
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Dr Wale (Olawale) Okediran, a medical doctor by training is a former member of the Nigerian parliament where he contributed to many legislations on health advocacy, regional dialogue, and policy development in Nigeria and the West African Region.

In view of his prowess in the field of sports where he represented his university and Oyo State on many occasions, he was awarded a university sports scholarship for his medical school education at the then University of Ife, Nigeria.

In 2010, he established the first writers residency in Nigeria, THE EBEDI INTERNATIONAL WRITERS RESIDENCY in Iseyin, Oyo State, Nigeria an initiative for the use of writers from all over the world. The facility has since inception, hosted about 160 Writers from 12 African countries.

A published author of 14 novels and two collections of travel stories some of which have won literary prizes within and outside Nigeria, the film adaptation of his ward winning novel; TENANTS OF THE HOUSE (directed by Kunle Afolayan) was adopted in November 2021 by NETFLIX for a three-year global streaming.

The UK edition of his novel, MADAGALI was released by Abibiman Publishers (London, UK) in September 2022.

Dr Okediran who is a former national president of the Association of Nigerian Authors, is the current Secretary General of the Accra, Ghana based Pan African Writers Association (PAWA)

About the African Perspectives Series

The African Perspectives Series was launched at the 2022 Nigeria International Book Fair with the first set of commissioned papers written and presented by authors of the UN SDG Book Club African Chapter. The objective of African Perspectives is to have African authors and subject experts in the Club's network, contribute to the global conversation around development challenges afflicting the African continent and to publish these important papers in the SDG Book Club blog hosted in the Stories section of the UN Namibia site. In this way, our authors' ideas about the way forward for African development, can reach the widest possible interested audience. The African Perspectives Series is an initiative by and property of Borders Literature for all Nations.

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