Remarks by Professor Padraig O’Malley
Opening Ceremony of the 4th Forum for Cities in Transition Conference
Murtala Mohammed Square
4 November 2013
Your Excellency, Vice President Sambo; Your Excellency, Governor Yero, and all assembled Excellencies,
This is an auspicious — indeed, not just auspicious but a groundbreaking occasion for the Forum for Cities in Transition to have the privilege, as a result of the Kaduna Forum for Cities in Transition and Kaduna State, to conduct the fourth annual conference of the Forum here in Kaduna.
We are profoundly grateful for your hosting us.
Adding to the groundbreaking occasion is the presence of six Nigerian cities and four others from the rest of Africa.
To Kaduna State, we are profoundly grateful for underwriting the cost of this conference, because without your generosity we would not be here — and we will remember that and hope you have set a precedent for other cities.
Your Excellency, Governor Yero, we thank you and we will not forget.
And to the many hundreds in the balconies who have made the journey here this morning for this historic occasion, we are humbled by your presence and hope our endeavours do you, the people, justice.
It is our hope that at the close of the conference we can announce that the Kaduna FCT has established a Nigerian FCT, with the Nigerian cities who are participating in this conference as its founding members, making Kaduna the peace centre of Nigeria and the hope that a Nigerian Forum will contribute to healing the divisions among Muslims and Christians that has enmeshed Nigeria in religious conflict for decades.
To all Nigerians here, I want to say that these cities can do together what they cannot do individually — one Nigerian city can help another, bonded by their similarities, their difficulties, their divisions — and their commitment to healing those divisions.
The Forum for Cities in Transition wishes to pay a special welcome to our Balkan cities — Mostar, Sarajevo and Srebrenica — cities torn apart by horrific violence during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
And a special welcome as well to our delegation from Baghdad, a city where daily bombings erase human life instantaneously, pre-empting any kind of reconciliation between Sunni and Shia in the process, with the result that we are beginning to witness Iraq slip slowly, but with frightening speed, into a full-scale civil war, with neighbour turning on neighbour, with every possibility that Iraq will become another Syria.
Many of our delegates made arduous journeys to secure their visas and we appreciate the lengths you went to and for your patience in order to participate in this conference, and we hope you will leave here believing that your efforts were well worthwhile.
There is an official agenda, which you have — and there is an unofficial agenda — the unofficial one is of your own making.
You will have ample opportunities to meet and get to know each other during the week, to mix and not only share your narratives of conflict, but to explore ways in which you can help each other further reconciliation among your diverse communities who were once in conflict — and some who still are.
At the opening of every conference, I make a point of emphasising that this is not just a conference; it is a conference that produces outcomes — and I stress that word.
Each conference is linked to the previous one; so Kaduna 2013 is linked to Kirkuk 2012 to Derry-Londonderry 2011 to Mitrovica 2010 to Boston 2009.
The sums of your cities has created a chain that links you and enables you to engage in continuing interaction, reinforcing that you can do together what you cannot do alone.
Most importantly, as I said, this conference is about outcomes.
Each participating city will be asked at the close of the conference to make a specific commitment that will be completed before next year’s conference. To carry out a project that will further reconciliation in its own city or help another city lower on the ladder of transition and needs your help.
The diversity of ethnic groups, nationalities, religions and culture that are assembled here will produce a synergy that will bond you in the common pursuit of finding ways to further reconciliation and healing in each others’ cities.
You will work hard, you will learn much, and you can translate that learning into outcomes that will assist you on the journey to equality of services for all of your citizens, tolerance, respect for human rights, dignity for all — and will reinforce your understanding that you are all cities in recovery from great trauma, and that you must pursue a continuous process of healing; that otherwise you will slip back into conflict.
On behalf of the Forum for Cities Secretariat — Nancy Riordan, Candyce Carragher, Allan Leonard, Quintin Oliver and myself, we wish you success in your endeavours, and we are here to assist you in every way we can.