Elizabeth Lwanga relives glory of crisis diplomacy

Wednesday July 13 2022

Elizabeth Lwanga at the Mende traditional crowning ceremony as Paramount Chief Mammy Yoko II in Bo Town, Sierra Leone in November 1998. PHOTO | POOL


Elizabeth Lwanga has been a beacon of peace, working behind the scenes to restore broken relations on the continent.

The retired UN ambassador (1990-2008) currently works as a development adviser, leadership development consultant and executive coach. She serves on a number of governance boards, and supports special causes, especially in conflict resolution, peace building, restoration of values and ethics, mentoring young women and especially the plight of those affected by the war in northern Uganda.

In the 1990s, she was in Sierra Leone where she employed her diplomatic skills to bring the warring parties in the civil war to the negotiating table that culminated in the Abidjan Peace Accord in 1996. As the UNDP representative in the country at the time, Lwanga played an instrumental role in initiating the first peace process of ending the war. In 1998, she was honoured by the people of Sierra Leone with the prestigious honorary title of Paramount Chief Mammy Yoko II.

Recalling the events, she says: “It came as a total surprise, when in the middle of the national consultation on the future of Sierra Leone in Bo Town, Southern Province, it was announced that I was to be made honorary chief Mammy Yoko II.

“I was blown away by the acknowledgement of my efforts as UNDP representative to work for peace in Sierra Leone. The real reward for development work comes with the results of our efforts and the difference we make to people’s lives,” she added.


Retired UNDP representative Elizabeth Lwanga. PHOTO | POOL


Lwanga was in Kenya during the 2007/08 post-election crisis.

“As UN resident co-ordinator in Kenya between 2006 and 2008, I was responsible for co-ordinating the response of the UN to the post-elections crisis of 2007. Fortunately, my experience in Sierra Leone of managing crises, and the fact that I had lived in Kenya before, between 1971 and 1989, helped me. Besides putting in place the UN systems and processes for responding to the humanitarian emergency, my focus was on an immediate search for a peaceful resolution,” she says.

“We sought the support of the Africa Forum of former African presidents that included Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Joachim Chissano of Mozambique, Quett Masire of Botswana and Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, some of whom had assisted me in our work on the Constitution in Swaziland. They were able to get the protagonists to agree to dialogue to resolve the crisis. We then provided technical support to the Africa Union-appointed team of Eminent Persons negotiators that moved the process to a negotiated settlement that restored peace to Kenya,” she adds.

Lwanga served as deputy regional director for Africa at the UNDP, UN resident and humanitarian co-ordinator, and UNDP representative in Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Ethiopia, and Kenya.