Personality of the week: Olara Otunnu

Olara Otunnu UN Special Envoy for War-Affected Children

Uganda's Olara Otunnu has spent nearly a decade fighting for children's rights, freeing and protecting children from armed conflict all over the globe since his appointment in 1996.

He was awarded the 2005 Sydney Peace Prize last week for his lifetime commitment to human rights and especially, the rights of children, the most vulnerable members of society, caught up in situations of armed conflict, sometimes as child soldiers.

Mr. Otunnu has traveled round the globe fighting against the brutality and injustice of children being involved in adults' wars, often forced to take up arms or lured into fighting by the promise of education or other benefits which never arise.

Mr. Otunnu recently referred to the abuse of children in armed conflict as a "human-made catastrophe of tsunami proportions" which is destroying societies.

Olara Otunnu was appointed to succeed Graca Machel and build on her considerable work, originally for a period of three years in August 1997. His mission has been to assess the progress achieved in taking children out of armed conflict and to take measures to address the problem. His tireless work has seen thousands of children saved from a desperate plight and he has successfully guided many of them into reintegration programmes.

Born in Mucwini, Uganda, he became President of the Student's Union at Makerere University in Kampala, before gaining scholarships to study law at Oxford, UK and Harvard, USA. After working in law firms in the USA, he became a leading critic of the regime of Idi Amin in the 1970s and joined the post-Amin Uganda National Consultative Council, which administered the country between 1979 and 1980.

During the following five years, Olara Otunnu was Uganda's Permanent Representative at the UNO, where he performed a number of important roles, such as President of the Security Council (1981), Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights (1983-84); Vice-President of the General Assembly (1982-83); and Facilitator of Global Negotiations (1982-83).

From 1985 to 1986, he was foreign Minister of Uganda, and during his tenure the Nairobi Agreement was signed (December 1985). From 1987 to 1989, he was Visiting Fellow of the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI) and from 1990 to 1997, he was President of the International Peace Academy (IPA).

Working selflessly towards righting the wrongs in our society, protecting the unprotected, providing a shelter for the most vulnerable, Olara Otunnu will go down in history as a shining example of the greats heights which mankind can and must aspire to if the species is to call itself civilized.

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Author`s name Olga Savka