Thursday, March 16, 2006

African role models

Role models, at all levels, are a necessity for a youth to see how they can... be all they can be. Although many African youth have examples to follow in their own family, the climate of cronyism and corruption has often impeded the possibility for them to see people of high-profile that they could be proud to identify with, and that motivated to aim higher - and the fact that many still aim high is to their credit.

I personally was extremely lucky. I have had the chance to meet and interact with a few worthy Africans - and worthy people from other places too. As role models in my daily life, I have had a peace-loving military officer of a father (weird, right?), and an M.D. International UN civil servant of a mother. I have had some uncles, aunts and family friends that were virtuous, with long lists of achievements on their records, and some even at a very visible high-profile level, like my uncle Freddy Matungulu, who is the first cabinet member in Congo ever to resign on ethical grounds, because he would not participate in the web of corruption. So I really cannot complain.

But beyond these fine people, there are other people that I see as role models for me, and hopefully for many Africans. One is Madiba himslef, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, whose resilience and brains made him rise from a 27 years long political prisoner, fighting for equal rights for all races, to the President of a free rainbow nation known as South Africa. The second, is Kofi Annan, who worked methodically, and assiduously within the International civil service, to finally rise to being the head diplomat - some say President - of the planet, aka the United Nations Secretary General, for 10 years (2 terms). Being a social sciences person, these two personalities are of great value to me, as they give me, and other Africans, a hope that there is a future for Black African people of virtue, in our fields. They are not perfect, but they are mostly good, decsent and caring people, who have not totally lost touch with where they come from, despite the big pay raise. They are my two African role models. So one may imagine my joy to see one congratulating the other:
IOL | Mandela heaps praise on UN leader

By Peter Fabricius and Sapa-AFP

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday that he would spend his retirement doing grassroots work in Africa as Nelson Mandela hailed him as one of the best UN bosses ever.

'When I retire, we (Annan and his wife) would want to devote some time to Africa to agriculture production and also to girls' education and women's empowerment. We'll move to Africa, we'll be in Ghana and also spend some time outside,' Annan told reporters after meeting Mandela in Johannesburg.

Before stepping down at the end of the year after serving two five-year terms, Annan was on the first leg of a farewell tour of Africa as UN chief that would also take him to Madagascar, Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo."
Although Mandela has gotten obvious credit for his work, we have all been so mesmerized by the US accusations and allegations against Annan's integrity, that we have totally overlooked the fact that the United Nations today do much more, and have much more capabilities to fulfill its humanitarian and dipomatic missions, than ever before. Now if we could just convince some of these veto-wielding members to relinquish an inch of power, maybe the UN would be able to fulfill its political missions better too. Kofi Annan dared to try to reform the system, and dared to challenge erroneous policies by the United States, and they made him pay for it. Today when people talk about Annan, they talk more about Oil for Food, than they talk about the very strong anti-corruption campaign he undertook within the UN system, or the better coordination mechanisms between UN agencies he helped establish. That is pretty unfortunate, and the fact that the media latched on to the smear ampaign only makes me think that a succesful African, with a mind of his/her own, is still not tolerated in this World... and that's a damn shame. Bayete Madiba! Bayete Kofi Annan!

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