Mohamed Sahnoun Launches Autobiography
06 March 2007

Mohamed Sahnoun, President of Initiatives of Change International, launched his new book 'Mémoire Blessée – Algérie 1957' with call for healing the past between Algeria and France.

At the Paris launching of his autobiographical novel Mémoire Blessée – Algérie 1957, Mohamed Sahnoun, President of IofC International, spoke of his experience of suffering and torture during Algeria’s war of independence. His publisher, Presses de la Renaissance, initiated the press conference in partnership with IofC France. It took place on 27 February at the Foreign Press Centre.

Addressing a majority of Algerian and African journalists, Sahnoun, a distinguished Algerian diplomat, underlined ‘the considerable importance of individual acts of solidarity in war time,’ a reality which is not talked about enough. The many ‘initiatives of solidarity’ he recounts in his book are ‘bridges between individuals and their suffering, bridges towards peace,’ he said.

At the time, his distressing experiences had led him to consider himself as a victim, he admitted, but now he sees himself as ‘a mediator who is trying reconciliation because he understands other people’s sufferings’. One man in the audience said that the book should have been called ‘Mémoire cicatrisée’ (‘Healed Memory’), a good example of what IofC is trying to achieve.

Beyond the Algerian war, Sahnoun's book challenges the reader to look at today's conflict situations and underlines the concept of ‘responsibility to protect’ which he sees as the duty of every leader and every citizen. Treaties alone are not enough, he said. ‘They need to be rooted in reconciliation. For peace to operate, deep change is needed in oneself and in the other person. This is where an organization like IofC can come in and make conflict transformation in depth possible.’

Jean Fayet, President of I&C France and Michel Kipoke, in charge of I&C's program ‘Reconciliation in the Great Lakes Region’ also spoke. Fayet described the work of Initiatives of Change in France and around the world. IofC, he insisted, is no substitute for the work of traditional diplomacy, but tries to address the fact that ‘peace cannot be achieved without a change in individuals’. IofC works by bringing together people who have been and are opposed to each other and ‘accompanying’ them in order to bring about a change of mentality and of behaviour. He recalled the basic principles of the movement and the necessity of ‘building peace in man before achieving it in society’.

Kipoke, who comes originally from the Congo (RDC), gave practical examples of IofC's work in Africa’s Great Lakes region, assisting the peace process in Burundi and in the Congo. It is difficult, he said, to bring together the different visions of stakeholders in a conflict ‘because each of them is clutching to his own legitimacy’. They all feel that ‘the other guy’ is to blame for the trouble. Reconciliation is needed between and also within the nations concerned. Five years after the signing of a peace agreement in Congo, he said, 50% of the work still remains to be done. ‘This is why it is important to include everybody in the peace process, because there is a potential for change in each group, in each community’.

M. Sahnoun concluded by saying that, ‘despite the constant dangers, one must not abandon the work of reconciliation’. He appealed for full responsibility and solidarity of the human community and repeated his vision that IofC’s international conference centre in Caux, Switzerland, could become a ‘Davos for Peace’, so as to ‘make political leaders aware of their responsibility towards sustainable solutions to the world's conflicts’.

Maud Glorieux and Laurence Le Moing.

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