Article: Lack of representation led to new engagement

There is growing interest in nuclear weapons and disarmament. We spoke to Uzo Ohanyere, one of the founders of the African organization Nyuklia Eureka. This article was first published in Swedish in our member journal number 172, September 2023.

Who are you and why did you get involved with Nyuklia Eureka?

Uzo Ohanyere_ Photo- ICAN Norway-Morgan Mackay

Photo: ICAN Norway | Morgan Mackay

I am Uzo Ohanyere, based in the UK but originally from Nigeria. My involvement with Nyuklia Eureka began with my co-founding of the organization in August 2022. The founding of Nyuklia Eureka was sparked by my firsthand experience at the first Meeting of States Parties (MSP) to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in Vienna. Upon attending the event in person, I quickly realized that African people were grossly underrepresented. This was despite several efforts made to ensure African participation. The realization that factors stifling African participation in international conferences were at play again motivated me to take action.

Recognizing the absence of African voices at such an essential international forum, I saw a need to bridge this gap. Nyuklia Eureka’s mission was thus born, aiming to ensure that African states and civil society have a seat at the table in global discussions on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. I understood that barriers such as financial constraints, visa issues, limited access to relevant information, or lack of institutional support often hinder African participation. Consequently, Nyuklia Eureka works to identify and overcome these barriers, making broader African engagement in these critical discussions possible.

Part of our work at Nyuklia Eureka involves educating the public and policymakers about nuclear disarmament issues from an African perspective. Engaging with communities, governments, and international organizations has become central to our efforts in ensuring that African perspectives are heard. Our organization also focuses on collaboration with other bodies. By partnering with other organizations, governments, and international bodies, we can amplify African voices in nuclear disarmament discussions, enhancing the credibility and reach of our initiatives. Building expertise and capacity within Africa regarding nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation is another vital aspect of our work. This empowerment allows local stakeholders to actively participate in global dialogues and decision-making processes, strengthening the African stance on these matters. Finally, we aim to align nuclear disarmament efforts with broader continental goals such as development, peace, and security. By connecting nuclear disarmament to wider African priorities, we can make the issue more relevant and compelling for African stakeholders.

My personal background, both in the UK and Nigeria, provides me with unique insights and connections to support these efforts. My experience at the MSP to the TPNW provided me with firsthand knowledge of the challenges and opportunities in this field. Nyuklia Eureka, under my co-leadership, has undertaken a critical mission, with the ambition to make a substantial impact on nuclear disarmament efforts, particularly as they pertain to Africa.

Can you tell us a bit about how Nyuklia Eureka was founded?

Nyuklia Eureka was born from a moment of realization and urgency. During the first Meeting of States Parties (1MSP) to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in Vienna, I found myself in a room filled with delegates from around the world. However, a quick scan of the room revealed an unsettling truth: African representation was low. Joined by two other Africans who shared similar concerns about our limited representation, we decided to take action. The urgency of the issue and our shared passion led us to brainstorm, plan, and eventually lay the groundwork for what would become Nyuklia Eureka. We knew that our voices needed amplification, and the collective power of African youth could be the force behind it. Nyuklia Eureka became a pioneer African Youth group, not just dedicated to nuclear disarmament but ensuring that African perspectives were part of the global conversation.

Photo: ICAN Norway | Morgan Mackay

Photo: ICAN Norway | Morgan Mackay

One unique aspect of Nyuklia Eureka’s mission is our focus on drawing intersections between climate change and nuclear disarmament. This connection is more than theoretical; it’s a recognition of the interlinked challenges that our generation faces. The devastating potential of nuclear weapons and the looming threat of climate change are both existential risks that require coordinated efforts. By connecting these dots, we’re broadening the scope of the conversation and inviting new perspectives to the table. Our initial trio soon grew as we organized and brought together other Africans who shared our vision. We knew that speaking in a collective voice would give us the strength and credibility to stand against the ills of nuclear weapons. We created a platform for dialogue, collaboration, and action. Through webinars, workshops, and advocacy campaigns, we’re building a movement that resonates with African youth and stakeholders across the continent.

Today, Nyuklia Eureka is more than a group; it’s a movement. We’re dedicated to building bridges, fostering understanding, and creating a world where African voices are not just heard but valued. Our work goes beyond mere representation; it’s about shaping the discourse, influencing policy, and making a lasting impact. The journey that began with a glance across a conference room has turned into a pursuit of justice, equality, and a shared vision for a safer world. Together, we are Nyuklia Eureka, and we continue to strive for a world that recognizes the importance of every voice, especially those that have been long silenced.

How do you work, what are your methods?

At Nyuklia Eureka, our human resource is our greatest asset. Our team is comprised of highly skilled and passionate young advocates who bring unique perspectives and expertise from various parts of the world. We’re not just a group; we’re a united community that believes in the power of youth to make a difference. We recognize that nuclear disarmament and its interconnection with climate change are topics that most people may not contemplate in their daily lives. That’s why we use information and education as our primary tools. Our mission is not just to inform but to enlighten, engage, and inspire. We’re not merely talking to the youth; we’re speaking their language. By tailoring our message to cater to a younger demographic—the generation that will bear the brunt of irresponsible decisions made today—we make our cause resonate with those who need to hear it most. Our approach isn’t one-size-fits-all. We strive to make our message relatable to the average person. This means breaking down complex issues into digestible information, connecting nuclear disarmament to everyday life, and creating a dialogue that feels personal and relevant.

We don’t just talk at people; we engage with them. We use various platforms like social media, workshops, webinars, and community outreach to reach different audiences. Whether it’s a classroom presentation, a Twitter thread, or a community forum, we adapt our approach to suit the needs and interests of our audience. One of the unique aspects of Nyuklia Eureka is our multilingual approach. Since our members come from various parts of the world, we essentially speak many languages. This isn’t just about linguistic diversity; it’s about cultural understanding and empathy. By communicating in different languages, we break down barriers, foster inclusivity, and make our cause resonate with people from diverse backgrounds. We’re not just a voice; we’re many voices united in a common cause.

Our methods are not static; they evolve with the times and the needs of our audience. We’re constantly learning, growing, and adapting. We listen to feedback, monitor the impact of our initiatives, and seek opportunities to innovate and expand our reach. Nyuklia Eureka is more than a youth group; it’s a movement driven by conviction, creativity, and collaboration. Our work reflects our belief that the youth have not just a stake in the future but a role in shaping it. We’re not waiting for change; we’re actively pursuing it, one conversation, one connection, one advocate at a time. Together, we’re building a future that recognizes the gravity of today’s decisions and empowers the next generation to lead with wisdom, compassion, and courage. 

What do you see as the most crucial thing to do for nuclear disarmament right now?

The pursuit of nuclear disarmament is complex and multifaceted, rooted not only in policies and agreements but in the very fabric of international relations. In my view, and as we emphasize at Nyuklia Eureka, the core challenge lies in building trust among nuclear states. This distrust isn’t merely a sentiment; it’s a driving force that propels nations into defensive postures, leading them to arm themselves with nuclear capabilities. This cycle of mistrust and armament perpetuates a dangerous status quo, where peace is maintained through the threat of unimaginable destruction. As much as building trust is vital, it’s also elusive. The creation of trust requires coordinated efforts, transparency, dialogue, and, most importantly, the will to move past historical grievances and geopolitical rivalries. Unfortunately, these elements are often dependent on too many factors out of our control.

Recognizing the complexity of trust-building, our focus shifts to what can be achieved: strengthening and enforcing existing agreements and treaties that prohibit nuclear weapons. This isn’t a mere bureaucratic exercise; it’s a tangible and actionable path towards a safer world. Treaties are more than words on paper; they are commitments made by nations to each other and to humanity. By enforcing these agreements diligently and addressing even the slightest breaches, we create a framework where international law is not just respected but upheld. Some may argue that the nuclear taboo – the global aversion to using nuclear weapons – is sufficient to prevent their use. But history and human nature remind us that taboos alone are fragile. We need more than unwritten rules; we need concrete commitments backed by the full weight of international cooperation and law.

Our stance is clear: The prohibition of nuclear weapons must not be a mere ideal; it must be a binding and enforceable reality. This requires not just the creation of agreements but the unwavering commitment to enforce them, monitor compliance, and respond to violations. The path to nuclear disarmament is neither simple nor straightforward. But it’s a path we must walk with determination, wisdom, and a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities before us. At Nyuklia Eureka, we believe in action, engagement, and the relentless pursuit of a world free from the threat of nuclear annihilation. Our approach may be multifaceted, but our goal is singular: to foster a world where nuclear weapons are not just controlled or reduced but eliminated. Trust-building is vital, but in the face of its complexities, we must pursue tangible, enforceable solutions that move us closer to a world where peace is secured not by the threat of destruction but by the promise of cooperation, respect, and shared humanity.

At the ICAN Act Forum in Oslo members from your organization were in panel about Connecting the Dots from Climate Justice to Nuclear Justice, can you tell us more about that work?

Photo: ICAN Norway | Alex Baker

Photo: ICAN Norway | Alex Baker

The panel discussion at the ICAN Act Forum in Oslo provided an incredible platform for Nyuklia Eureka to articulate our perspective on an issue that is central to our mission: connecting the dots between Climate Justice and Nuclear Justice. The interconnection between climate change and nuclear weapons is not often a mainstream discussion. However, for us at Nyuklia Eureka, it’s a connection that we believe is vital to highlight, understand, and address. The link goes far beyond the immediate destruction caused by nuclear weapons. It reaches into the very roots of how these weapons are created, tested, and their impact on the environment and communities.

One of the starting points of this connection is uranium mining. Uranium, the source material for nuclear weapons, is found abundantly in Africa. Unfortunately, the mining of this material is often conducted without sustainable practices. This unsustainable mining doesn’t just impact the environment; it wreaks havoc on local communities. From polluting water sources to destroying habitats, the effects are felt economically and socially. Communities that depend on these natural resources find their livelihoods threatened, and the promise of economic growth from mining often fails to materialize. The harm caused by nuclear weapons isn’t confined to wartime usage. Testing of these weapons has historically rendered entire islands and vast areas of land uninhabitable. The environmental destruction lasts from decades to centuries, and the human cost is incalculable. People living in these areas lose their homes, their health, and often their lives. The scars left behind by these tests are a grim reminder that nuclear weapons are a threat not only in conflict but in their very existence.

Our work in connecting climate justice to nuclear justice is about recognizing that these issues are interwoven. We cannot address one without considering the other. It’s about realizing that the fight against nuclear weapons isn’t just a battle for peace; it’s a struggle for environmental protection, economic fairness, and social justice. At the ICAN Act Forum, we aimed to bring these connections to the forefront, urging policymakers, activists, and the public to see the broader picture. It’s not merely a matter of disarmament; it’s about building a world that recognizes the intricate web of dependencies that bind our environment, economy, and society. The panel discussion was more than an opportunity to speak; it was a call to action. We believe that the fight against nuclear weapons must be integrated into the broader struggle for a sustainable and just world. Nuclear weapons are not only dangerous when used in war but equally hazardous in their very existence. The path to justice, be it climate or nuclear, is one and the same, and it requires unified action, empathy, and a commitment to see beyond the obvious. Through education, advocacy, and collaboration, we at Nyuklia Eureka continue to strive for a world where the rights to peace, prosperity, and a healthy environment are not just ideals but a reality for all.

How do you organize/get active people in your campaign?

The process of organizing and mobilizing people within Nyuklia Eureka’s campaign is an essential aspect of our work. People come to Nyuklia Eureka not just because they are interested in our mission, but because they resonate with our values and our spirit. We represent something more than a cause; we symbolize a movement of youth committed to shaping a better world. Our message of hope, change, and empowerment connects with individuals who want to be part of something bigger than themselves. We believe in the potential of every member, and we invest in that potential through training and development. Our members aren’t just participants; they are integral parts of our team. We offer workshops, webinars, mentoring, and resources that empower them with the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to contribute effectively.

At Nyuklia Eureka, we amplify the voices of young Africans, both internationally and within their communities. We offer opportunities to speak, write, and advocate on platforms that reach a wide audience. This isn’t just about giving them a chance to be heard; it’s about recognizing and valuing their unique insights and perspectives. Our approach to organizing goes beyond mere recruitment. We strive to create a space where people feel a sense of belonging and purpose. We understand that engagement is not just about shared goals; it’s about building relationships, fostering camaraderie, and creating an environment where everyone feels valued and included.

We believe in nurturing leaders within our ranks. members are given opportunities to take on responsibilities, lead initiatives, and grow within the organization. This sense of ownership and opportunity for advancement keeps our members motivated and committed. At Nyuklia Eureka, we don’t just organize people; we cultivate a community of change-makers. We recognize that every person who joins us brings unique talents, passion, and perspectives. We harness these individual strengths, uniting them in a collective pursuit of our mission.

People choose to volunteer with us not just because they believe in what we do, but because they see in us a reflection of who they aspire to be. Together, we are more than an organization; we are a testament to the power of youth, collaboration, and shared conviction. Through empathy, empowerment, and engagement, we continue to inspire and mobilize a generation committed to nuclear disarmament, climate justice, and a future defined by hope, integrity, and compassion.

What is your goal in a 5-year horizon?

The five-year horizon for Nyuklia Eureka is both ambitious and focused on fostering real, tangible change. Our primary goal is to broaden our reach within the African continent. This expansion isn’t about numbers alone; it’s about deepening our engagement, understanding various local contexts, and empowering communities with the information and tools they need to participate actively in the global nuclear disarmament conversation. We recognize that African voices have often been underrepresented in international forums and decision-making processes concerning nuclear disarmament. We aim to change this by nurturing leaders, building networks, and facilitating dialogues that ensure African perspectives are not only heard but influential.

Collaboration will be key to our success. We intend to work closely with governments, NGOs, educational institutions, and other stakeholders across Africa and beyond. By building strong partnerships, we can align efforts, pool resources, and create synergies that amplify our impact. Education is at the heart of our mission. We plan to develop programs, resources, and campaigns tailored to various African contexts to raise awareness and understanding of the connection between nuclear disarmament, environmental sustainability, and social justice. We remain committed to our focus on youth. We believe that empowering the next generation of leaders is essential to sustainable change. We will continue to invest in training, mentoring, and opportunities that enable young Africans to take the lead in advocacy, policy-making, and community engagement.

Our efforts extend to influencing policy and legislative frameworks within African nations and international bodies. We aim to contribute to the formulation, enactment, and enforcement of policies that promote nuclear disarmament, aligned with African needs and values. We understand that the landscape of nuclear disarmament and global politics is dynamic. Our strategies and approaches will be grounded in continuous monitoring, evaluation, and adaptation to ensure that we remain effective and relevant in our pursuit of our goals. Our five-year horizon is not just a timeline; it’s a vision for the future we aspire to create. A future where African voices resonate with authority in global forums, where nuclear disarmament is pursued with the urgency it deserves, and where the intersection of peace, environment, and justice is recognized and acted upon.

At Nyuklia Eureka, we are driven by the belief that this future is not just possible; it’s within our reach. Through concerted effort, collaboration, and unwavering commitment, we intend to move closer to a world where African influence in nuclear disarmament is substantial, and the advocacy for a peaceful and sustainable world is a shared responsibility across the continent and beyond.

En förkortad version av denna intervju är publicerad i Läkare mot Kärnvapen 172 som utkom i september 2023.