Ugandan nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Saturday February 21 2015

Victor Ochen explaining his work to visitors.

Victor Ochen explaining his work to visitors. PHOTO | FILE  


Victor Ochen, the founder and director of the African Youth Initiative Network (Ayinet) has been nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr Ochen, 33, becomes one of the youngest people ever to be nominated for the prize. He has been nominated alongside Edward Snowden, Pope Francis and Mussie Zerai, an Italian priest of Eritrean origin.

Mr Ochen’s nomination was put forward by the American Friends Services Committee (AFSC), because of his dedication to rehabilitating victims of war by providing psycho-social support and lifesaving healthcare.

“Mr Ochen has shown commitment and effectiveness in his efforts to address the needs of victims. By working for transitional justice, he has been able to promote human rights through non-violent means, nourishing the leadership skills of other young people, and challenging systemic issues that lead to the continued vulnerability and suffering of war victims,” AFSC said.

Born in one of northern Uganda’s camps for displaced people, Mr Ochen spent most of his youth amid war, witnessing first hand an array of human-rights abuses. In 2003, the Lord’s Resistance Army abducted his elder brother and cousin. To this day, their whereabouts are unknown.

Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that he feels proud that one of his alumni at the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship Programme is leading change in Africa.

“Mr Ochen is part of a special group of African leaders who have graduated from the programme that bears my name and I wish him well as a potential recipient of this auspicious honour,” Archbishop Tutu said.

Mr Ochen was part of the 2011 Programme and in May last year, he hosted Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the National War Victims’ Conference in Uganda.

Mr Ochen said it was an honour to receive the nomination, adding that he hoped that the nomination will contribute to a change of perception of Africa’s youth as agents of prosperity and peace.

“My work in supporting victims and survivors of war, advocating for human rights, engaging in peace and reconciliation, is out of inspiration and I hope this recognition will shift the attention from the perpetrators to the victims and survivors of wars not only in Africa, but worldwide,” Mr Ochen said.

Since 2005, Ayinet has provided reconstructive surgical repair to at least 5,000 victims of torture and sexual violence, as well as treating war wounds and those requiring mental health supports.

Mr Ochen will wait till October to know if he will be lucky enough to bag the Nobel Peace Prize, which consists of a Nobel Medal and Diploma, and the $1.2 million cash prize.

Peter Wilson, co-founder and global CEO of AFLI said that Mr Ochen is a remarkable young man who epitomises selfless values-based leadership, a critical selection criterion in identifying high potential leaders to participate in the programme.

“We salute Victor and Ayinet for being recognised by the AFSC and being nominated by the Nobel Peace Committee. His recognitions come from his exceptional leadership in his efforts to transform the continent,” Mr Wilson said.

Last year, Mr Ochens’ organisation Ayinet was recognised by Unesco as a model African Youth Initiative for promoting the culture of Peace in Africa. 

Mr Ochen will wait till October to know if he will be lucky to bag the Nobel Peace prize, which consists of a Nobel Medal and Diploma, and the $1.2 million cash prize.