In collaboration with MAG staff working across 26 countries, we have chosen to spotlight some of the incredible Black women and men who inspire our work and those who have played a crucial role in humanitarian, peace-building, and disarmament history.
The figures profiled below are important to MAG staff, but this list could have been so much longer given the huge number of Black humanitarian heroes who remain unsung.
Margaret Arach Orech
Margaret is an ambassador for the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Cluster Munitions Coalition.
As a victim of conflict in Uganda, Margaret works tirelessly to use her own experiences to inform her work highlighting the plight of landmine survivors and advocating for their needs and fighting for international recognition of their rights.
In 2018, Margaret was honored by the EU with a Human Rights Defender award for her work as the Director of Uganda Landmine Survivors Association (ULSA), as Commissioner to the Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA) coalition, as a board member of Uganda’s National Council for Disability (NCD), and as a partner to the Uganda Mine Action Centre.
Margaret was also recognized as the 2014 Woman PeaceMaker by the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego.
"Any work for Humanity is not in vain even when you encounter setbacks. Persistence does yield positive results."
Margaret Arach Orech
About her campaigning work and overcoming insurmountable odds, Margaret continues to stay upbeat: “Any work for humanity is not in vain even when you encounter setbacks. Persistence does yield positive results."
Margaret continues to advocate for landmine survivors and campaign for states to sign up to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Baker is one of the most important American civil rights leaders of the 20th century. She played a key role in some of the most influential organizations of the time, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and SNCC: the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Ella may be less well-known for her work with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, but it is no less important. The group would ultimately become one of the steering group members of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), which works to prevent human suffering from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
Baker continued to be an influential leader and committed activist until her death on her 83rd birthday.
Mbaye was a Senegalese military officer who served in Rwanda as a United Nations military observer from 1993-94.
When Rwanda descended into the horror of genocide, Mbaye found himself part of a UN peacekeeping force. As well as the unfolding genocide, Mbaye was appalled by the actions of European aid agencies working to save only their own nationals and dismayed at how UN peacekeepers in Rwanda had been let down by a lack of coordination.
Mbaye resorted to taking huge risks on his own initiative to save hundreds of civilian lives.
The genocide had rekindled a civil war between the government army and rebel forces of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) which had been briefly on hold following a tentative peace deal. Led by the now-President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, the RPF advanced on the capital, saying it would stop the massacre. As time went on, the war split Kigali into two zones – one controlled by the government, the other by the RPF.
On 31 May 1994, Mbaye was killed when a mortar shell launched by RPF forces exploded near his car at a government checkpoint. His body was repatriated to Senegal and buried with full military honors.
In 2005 Mbaye was posthumously awarded the rank of Knight in Senegal’s National Order of the Lion. And the UN Security Council created the Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage in 2014 in his honor.
MAG remains committed to working toward a more just and equitable future, not just during Black History Month, but every day forward. These amazing leaders inspire our work.