African Congress in Abidjan: round-up of the Teaching Abolition activities!

28 May 2018

More than a month has passed since the African Congress Against the Death Penalty ended in Abidjan. Enough time to take stock of this event which was a real success for the entire Ensemble contre la peine de mort team and the abolitionist movement in Africa.

Let’s start with a round-up of the success stories of the “Teaching Abolition” project at the Congress! Created in 2009 with a view to raising awareness about the death penalty among young people, this programme, which lies at the heart of ECPM’s mission, was rolled out at this amazing event via several activities: school visits on the fringe of the Congress, writing and singing workshops concluding with a slam performance at the opening ceremony, the 3rd international “Draw Me Abolition” competition exhibition at the Congress site and, among other debates, a workshop about “Mobilising young people”.

A vast programme we suggest you (re)discover in more detail through pictures!

School visits with students in Abidjan

Every year, the team from the Teaching Abolition programme, accompanied by witnesses, regularly organises visits to schools in France to raise awareness of abolition among young people. The African Congress was an opportunity to export this activity to young people from Côte d’Ivoire. Charlène Martin, head of the Teaching Abolition project, therefore visited four schools in the city of Abidjan, accompanied by Susan Kigula, a young Ugandan women and a former death penalty prisoner who has become a real symbol of the struggle against capital punishment in her country.

Together, on 5, 6 and 10 April they met 15 girls in the sixth form studying the arts at Lycée Mermoz, 67 sixth formers at the Lycée Jules Verne, 36 middle school pupils at the Collège Cours Sévigné and about one hundred girls in the sixth form at the Lycée Sainte Marie. Through a presentation of the main issues by Charlène and Susan’s personal story, they were all encouraged to think about the issue of the death penalty, express their opinions and ask questions. During two of these visits, we were also able to count on the participation of Paul Angaman, Chair of the Fédération internationale de l’action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture et de la peine de mort (FIACAT) who was able to enlighten the students about the capital punishment situation in Africa.

We would like to thank all the teaching teams from the four schools who opened their doors to us, and in particular: Mr Rousset, Mr Olivier, Mrs Koné and Mrs Maniak.

Slam by young people against the death penalty in Côte d’Ivoire 

“It’s cruel!

It’s criminal!

It’s inhuman to use the death penalty.

Authorities, here and everywhere

Let’s all fight together

To abolish the death penalty across the world”

This is the chorus sung by seven young people from Côte d’Ivoire. They won over the entire room at the opening ceremony of the Congress which was attended by senior figures, including several African ministers. This original and moving slam was the result of five students from the Lycée Moderne de Cocody and two young people from the Fondation Naumann en Côte d’Ivoire attending writing, diction and singing workshops under the supervision of the slammer Bee Koe, Chair of the Ivorian collective Au Nom du Slam. Together, they wrote an anti-death penalty piece, telling the story of Susan who accompanied them in English during their performance at the opening of the Congress – she herself was very involved in her prison choir when she was on death row. “Everyone at school is congratulating us because they’ve seen the children on the 8 o’clock news” celebrated Mrs Guei, a teacher at the Lycée Moderne de Cocody, the day after the Ceremony.

“No compensation is worth my 16, 16, years in prison

But I’m happy to be able to feel the sun’s rays on my body

Happy to make a new start

Happy to see my daughter who is my bastion


Happy to make the death penalty my fight from now on”

“Draw Me Abolition” exhibition The results of the 3rd Draw Me Abolition competition were exhibited on the railings of the entrance to the CRRAE for Congress participants to see during the two days of debates. This competition invited students from across the world aged 12 to 18 to design an anti-death penalty poster for the World Day on 10 October 2016. Young people from 12 different countries and 4 different continents entered the competition. The top 50 posters chosen were displayed in a large format for the occasion. A catalogue was published and distributed to all Congress participants, as well as to the students met during the school visits, in order to highlight this engagement by young people. Further, students at the Lycée Jules Verne d’Abidjan have already made posters with a view to entering the next Competition which will be officially launched on 10 October 2018.     “Mobilising young people” workshop on the programme of debates During the two days of debates, Congress participants were able to attend a wide range of roundtables, meetings and workshops on the theme of the death penalty… including a workshop called “Mobilising young people” moderated by Charlène Martin from ECPM’s Teaching Abolition team. How do you mobilise young people to encourage a change in the way people think about the death penalty? This was the question the workshop tried to answer by proposing various paths of action to encourage young people to support universal abolition.

During the workshop, Charlène set out the teaching methods developed by ECPM to the 80 participants present. Among the other contributors, Suzanne Mogomba, coordinator at the Culture pour la Paix et la Justice organisation, shared her round-up of the launch of the “Draw Me Abolition” competition in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Finally, Susan Kigula and Ndume Olatushani, a former death penalty prisoner from the USA released after 28 years on death row, spoke about their experience of telling their stories to young people.