Uganda's 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Speaks Out

2212 Views Kitgum, Uganda

In short
Ochen was nominated alongside A Russian newspaper, critical of President Vladimir Putin, Edward Snowden, Pope Francis and an Eritrean priest helping African migrants.

Victor Ochen, the Director of African Youth Network Initiative is excited about his nomination for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. Ochen was nominated by American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) on January 26.
His nomination was announced at a Press Conference in Washington DC on Monday following confirmation from the Nobel Peace Prize Award Committee.  The 33-year-old peace advocate describes his nomination as 'rewarding and humbling" for a person of his background.

//Cue in "It is very humbling…
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Ochen was nominated alongside A Russian newspaper, critical of President Vladimir Putin, Edward Snowden, Pope Francis and an Eritrean priest helping African migrants.  The final winner of the US $1.2 million award will be announced in October. 
A nomination letter by the American Friends Service Committee, a copy of which Uganda Radio Network has obtains notes that, Ochen has consistently shown both commitment and effectiveness in his efforts to address the needs of war victims.
Ochen told Uganda Radio Network on Wednesday that the exciting news has humbled him after years of working for justice of victims of Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) atrocities in Northern Uganda.

Ochen says that he spent 20 years in war and witnessed all forms of human rights abuses. According to Ochen, he and his family often survived on a meal a day and sometimes went without food.

Despite the suffering, Ochen says that he made a promise to his mother never to pick up a gun or join the army, which made him a target for abduction by the LRA.
He says that he managed to finance his education and provide for family through making and selling charcoal. Ochen becomes the first Ugandan to be nominated for the prestigious Award.

Who is Victor Ochen?
Ochen was born to Jebidayo Ogweno and Pophia Alum in Abia village in Lira district. He started his primary education at Adyek Primary Schoo in 1988 but it was cut in Primary two when his family was displaced by Karimojong Rustlers.
He managed to resume primary education in Primary five and later sat for his Primary Leaving Examinations in Awir Primary School in Apac district and scored 11 aggregates in 1996.
He began his secondary school in Lira Town College in his home district where he burned and sold Charcoal to raise his school fees. He also returned to Lira College for his A Level education. 

He joined Gulu University for a Diploma course which he didn't complete due to insecurity and lack of school fees. Two years later, Ochen joined Straight Talk Foundation (STF) as a Youth Health Programme Radio Journalist - trained on Job. 
He used his salary to join World University of Leadership, Kampala Campus, from where he obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Leadership and Development Studies.
He told Uganda Radio Network that he abandoned work at STF to concentrate of AYINET which he founded using funds he saved from STF job. 

The youth-led network conducts outreach programs to promote dialogue between youth in different communities in northern Uganda, and has begun a one-week Peace Camp to teach skills in conflict resolution, peace building and leadership as well as understand the law as a tool for human rights. 

In May 2014, the network organized the first National War Victims Conference, which attracted more than 250 people from all corners of the country, as well as representatives from Kenya, Mali, Nigeria and Burundi among others.
The goal was to develop a roadmap for a successful transitional justice process in Uganda to address healing the physical and emotional wounds of war to build toward national reconciliation. 
In January 2015, Ochen represented victims before the International Criminal Court where the first former Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) Commander Dominic Ongwen was making an initial appearance in a historic trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. 
AYINET Reacts to Nomination.

"Both Victor Ochen and AYINET accept the nomination with gratitude. We are both surprised and humbled by the overwhelming approval expressed for our values and work," reads part of its acceptance speech.

"We thank AFSC for the faith that we deserve the nomination they have earlier awarded to Martin Luther King Jr. and His Grace Archbishop Desmond Tutu [among others]," it further stressed.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu Speaks Out.
"My heart swells with pride to hear of one of my ‘children' leading change in Africa," commented the South African Nobel Laureate, adding that "Victor is part of a special group of African leaders who have graduated from the program that bears my name and I wish him well as a potential recipient of this auspicious honor."

The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel prizes created by the Swedish industrialist, inventor, and armaments manufacturer Alfred Nobel, along with the prizes in chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, and literature.

Since 1901, however, it has reportedly been awarded annually (with some exceptions) to those who have "done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses



About the author

Peter Labeja
Peter Labeja has been a practicing journalist for the last 13 years during which he has covered part of the brutal conflict which bedeviled Northern Uganda as well as the painful transition to Peace thereafter. Emerging post conflict issues such as land rights of under privileged widows and orphans, challenges of access to social services in the immediate aftermath of Lord’s Resistance Army conflict in Northern Uganda.

Labeja is now the Northern Uganda Bureau chief in Acholi Sub Region since 2014 - Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro districts as well as South Sudan falls within his areas of jurisdiction. He previously worked with The Vision Group for four years.

Labeja’s major career interests are in Climate Change; Agriculture and Environment - natural resources such as Water, Oil and Gas; Transitional Justice; Human Rights, Democracy and Governance as well as South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis. In 2013, Labeja was awarded a prestigious Pan African Journalism Award for excellence in journalism at United Nation’s UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya for Climate Change and Health Reporting.