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South African man helps bring peace to Africa

Sam Okello, Brian Williams and Forest Whitaker
Sam Okello, Brian Williams and Forest Whitaker
Image: Brian William

A South African poet and intellectual has been working with Hollywood A-lister Forest Whitaker to bring peace to some of the most violent countries on the planet.

Brian Williams‚ a former chair of the University of the Western Cape's council and president of the convocation‚ has been facilitating peace training for child soldiers and youth who were affected by the civil war in Uganda and South Sudan.

Williams has been contracted by Whitaker's peace foundation - the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative.

"The focus is on the youth. In South Sudan‚ everyone in the programme was directly and indirectly affected by the ongoing civil war‚'' said Williams who is the visiting professor in peace‚ conflict transformation and mediation and labour relations at two African universities.

"The training is directed at getting young people to attain inner peace and to do different things to bring peace in the lives of others."

In Uganda‚ said Williams‚ the same transformative peace training programme has been offered to youngsters from the Kiryandongo Refugee Camp and youth from the Acholi region.

According to Human Rights Watch thousands have been murdered in South Sudan - often "because of their ethnicity or perceived political alliances in South Sudan's ongoing conflict."

About 3-million people have had to flee their homes and half a million people have been forced to live in United Nations compounds. Others are being housed in refugee camps.

And in Uganda Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns about freedom of association‚ assembly and expression.

On Wednesday AFP reported that a Ugandan court released eight editors and directors of a newspaper who faced treason charges.

"They were charged with treason over an article implicating President Yoweri Museveni in a plot to overthrow his Rwandan counterpart‚'' the article read.

Whitaker is a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group and‚ according to his organisation's website‚ believes that "in order to attain peace and prosperity‚ communities and nations must heed the voices of their diverse and vibrant youth.''

Williams said Whitaker also plays an active role in the peace training programmes.

"He is the vision bearer of the project and facilitates the funding to make the projects possible‚'' said Williams.

Another visionary‚ working with Williams and Whitaker‚ is former child solider and acclaimed Ugandan artist Sam Okello who started Hope North. His organisation helps orphans‚ former child soldiers and victims of the Ugandan civil war. To date‚ he said‚ his organisation has assisted over 3‚500 young people.

Okello told TimesLIVE that he had met Whitaker when he was filming The Last King of Scotland in which the actor portrayed Idi Amin.

Together they started working on facilitating peace processes in that country.

Okello said Williams is valued member of the team.

"One thing that we value about Brian is how he brings academia into the programme to empower youth...his methodology of educating young people to promote peace. He teaches them to analyses issues to have a peaceful society which will help Africa to develop.''

Okello believes that it is time for Africa to ''sober up'' and transform society and that requires‚ among other things‚ a transformed education system and good leadership.

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