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Mohamed Sahnoun (Arabic: محمد سحنون ) (born 1931 in Chlef) is an Algerian diplomat who was Algerian ambassador to several key countries such as France, Germany and the United States, served as the Organisation of African Unity's Assistant Secretary General, the Arab League's Assistant Secretary-general, the Secretary-General of the United Nations's Special Representative for Somalia in 1992 and the Secretary-General of the United Nations's Special Representative for the Great Lakes region of Africa in 1997 before continuing to work for peace and reconciliation through various UN-related or independent charities. He particularly focused on developing intercultural and inter-religious dialogues and on healing wounded memories from past conflicts.
Mohamed Sahnoun was born in 1931 in Orléansville, currently Chlef, in Algeria. He first studied at the lycée of Algiers and then went on at the Sorbonne in Paris. He was there on the day of the first hostilities of the Algerian War (1 November 1954). As an activist of the FLN, he responded to the call to strike launched by the '’Union générale des étudiants musulmans algériens (Ugema)'’ on 19 May 1956, stopped studying in Paris and came back home in Algeria. There, he started to work in the 'Social Centers' created by former French Resistance fighter Germaine Tillon with the agreement of Jacques Soustelle (then Governor General of Algeria) in order to alleviate misery, squalor and illiteracy in Algerian populations. In March 1957, the organisation is raided and searched by police, who arrest and detain twelve Christians (among which priests) and twenty-three Muslims. Being one of the managers of the 'Social Centers', Mohamed Sahnoun is part of this group, which will be charged with conspiracy and tried in a fairly loudly-trumpeted trial, nicknamed the “Progressive Christians” trial. Mohamed Sahnoun was subsequently detained in the infamous "villa Susini", the torture and detention centre of the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment during the Battle of Algiers. He himself was subjected to torture. Released for lack of conclusive evidence, Mohamed Sahnoun then sought refuge in metropolitan France, in Clichy then in Switzerland in Lausanne. He was unable to go back to Algeria before independence. During his early years Mohamed Sahnoun also got acquainted with the pacifist NGO Service Civil International in Algeria in 1952–53; he participated in several of their international workcamps and even became the head of their Algerian branch for some time. This provided himm with an enduring philosophical background (see infra) and also with an important network of trusted friends who would be of great assistance to him through the events of the 1950s. Mohamed Sahnoun then resumed his studies at New York University where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Arts degrees, both in political science.
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