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A photo depicting the Right Livelihood Award Ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden on November 30, 2022.
The Swedish award is often dubbed the Alternative Nobel PrizeImage: Maja Suslin/TT NYHETSBYRÅN/picture alliance

African, Ukrainian activists receive Right Livelihood Awards

November 30, 2022

Human rights activists and organizations were honored for their role in promoting peace and justice. The Swedish-based award is often dubbed the Alternative Nobel Prize.


Two Somali human rights activists, a group of Ukrainian human rights activists and a Venezuela organization received the Right Livelihood Awards on Wednesday in Stockholm in recognition of their peace and justice efforts.

Somali Fartuun Adan and her daughter Ilwad Elman won the prize for their courage in promoting peace, demilitarization and human rights in Somalia in the face of terrorism and gender-based violence.

A third African, Dickens Kamugisha, was honored for his courageous work for climate justice and community rights violated by fossil fuel extraction projects in Uganda.

Ukrainian activist Oleksandra Matviichuk and her Center for Civil Liberties also received the award, alongside the Venezuelan collective Cecosesola and the Ugandan Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO).

Founded in 1980, the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the Alternative Nobel) honors and supports courageous people solving global problems. The award comes with long-term support to highlight and expand the laureates' work.

To date, 190 laureates from 74 countries have received the award.

Elman's dedication to peace

Ilwad Elman, 33, was only 7 when her father, Elman Ali Ahmed, a prominent Somali peace activist, was assassinated in 1996 in their home country.

When she was 2 years old, the civil war broke out in Somalia, forcing her family to seek refuge in neighboring countries before resettling in Canada.

Ahmed's killing was linked to Elman Peace — a nonprofit organization Elman's mother, Adan, founded together with Ahmed in 1990.

Though safely in Canada, Adan and Elman were restless about the turmoil at home.

Laureates Fartuun Adan and Ilwad Elman, founders of Elman Peace, Somalia, at the Right Livelihood Award ceremony in Stockholm.
Mother Fartuun Adan and daughter Ilwad Elman left the safety of Canada to found the Elman Peace in their home country SomaliaImage: Maja Suslin/TT NYHETSBYRÅN/picture alliance

Their restlessness grew into discontent, and, finally, Adan returned to Somalia in 2006 to continue Elman Peace's work and her husband's legacy. Four years later, Elman joined her mother in Somalia.

Together, the duo has pioneered peace and justice projects across Somalia. 

They have also championed climate and security, human rights and protection, gender and equality issues, education, livelihood, and job creation-related projects in Somalia.

Since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia and its people have not known peace, and, currently, the government is battling the al-Shabab extremist group.

Documenting Russia's 'war crimes' in Ukraine

Ukrainian rights defender Matviichuk was crowned this year's Right Livelihood Award winner jointly with her Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), which also won the Nobel Peace Prize in October.

Set up in 2007 to promote human rights values, the center has been hard at work, documenting Russian illegal activities in Ukraine since annexing the Crimea region in 2014.

The center's important documentation activities were even more valuable since Russia's invasion of Ukraine this year.

The Ukrainian Matviichuk receives the Right Livelihood Award in Stockholm, on November 30, 2022.
Oleksandra Matviichuk' Center for Civil Liberties says it has documented over 21,000 Russian war crimes in UkraineImage: Maja Suslin/TT NYHETSBYRÅN/picture alliance

The body says it has recorded over 21,000 examples of what it says are Russian war crimes committed in Ukraine since 2014.

Standing up for Uganda's voiceless

Ugandan activist Dickens Kamugisha has resisted government and corporate threats as his organization, Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), ensures that communities affected by colonialist extractive energy projects can raise their voices on national and international levels.

According to government estimates, Uganda has between 1.8 billion and 2.2 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the country's northwestern Albertine region.

As a result of their activities to prevent environmental damage and protect the rights of communities, AFIEGO has faced threats and harassment from the authorities. 

Kamugisha is also an advocate of the High Court of Uganda and a member of the Uganda Law Society and East African Law Society.

Facing Venezuela's economic woes

Struggling under a battered economy, many Venezuelans have chosen to flee the country in recent years. Three-quarters of those who remain in the country live in extreme poverty.

The Venezuelan Cecosesola (Central de Cooperativas de Lara) connects organizations from low-income areas to provide affordable goods and services to over 100,000 families.

The network offers funeral services, food markets, a health network, loans services and agricultural production, as it continues to expand for some 55 years.

"Cecosesola is a beacon that inspires those that are looking for a different way to approach economic activities, transcending the traditional hierarchical model present in private and governmental enterprises," the website of the Right Livelihood award said.

Children living on the street suffer from extreme poverty in Caracas, Venezuela.
Three-quarters of those who remain in the country live in extreme povertyImage: Roman Camacho/ZUMA Press/imago images

rmt/sms (EFE, dpa)

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