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From 12-16 May 2010 more than 90 delegates representing over 14 countries from around Africa and beyond converged at St Mary’s Pastoral Centre, Nakuru for the All Africa Conference. The last conference of the kind had taken place back in 2002, hence this was a special moment. Over the five days the delegates passionately celebrated Africa’s potential and amongst other issues discussed Africa’s leadership and governance, conflict resolution and economic independence. Participants engaged in a learning process that allowed them to reflect, refresh, re-energize and re-strategize on how to better reach out to the communities they work in individually and collectively.
Professor Patrick (PLO) Lumumba , the keynote speaker, challenged, encouraged and moved the hearts of many in the room. He gave a very vivid picture of where Africa has come from, where it is and what it can become. ‘We have to take stock and ask ourselves what has been the past of Africa to project the future’. And is Africa a God forsaken place? Of course not! ‘Africa was the land of refuge even in the early days; Abraham, Jesus, Jacob, Mohammed and many others sought refuge here’ he explained.
‘But since the discovery of gun powder, Africans were de-humanized’, continued Professor Lumumba. ‘...It was the black man in his dehumanised form that built the UK, USA and Latin America. Unfortunately even after independence megalomania (power hungry men) arose and coups became as frequent as breakfast. And Africa has ever since been in the business of being rescued. Africa is still suffering, what is the problem?’ the eloquent professor shared.
He went ahead and challenged Africa ‘Africa consumes what it doesn’t produce and produces what it doesn’t consume. Africa must learn to produce and add value’, he said. ‘When it rains we complain of floods and when it doesn’t rain we complain of drought. Floods can create dams! We should be able to use our ability, talent and skills to tackle our problem. ...We also must eliminate this currency that divides us and inhibits trade.’
The other concern that the professor talked about so passionately was education in Africa. ‘When all is done the real battle must be fought with the mind! We are not sure who we are. We are puppets manipulated at will by circumstances. We have eaten a lot from the west – and we prefer what is from the west than those made in Africa. What type of education are our young ones receiving in schools?’ he asked. ‘Education should help our young ones embrace the uniqueness of Africa. We should have education that creates curiosity and innovation. It is education that will drive Africa to the right direction’, he added.
‘I have no doubt we can correct things by correcting our attitudes! Africa can be great and will be great. It can be done. Why can’t we do it? We can do it. If it has to be done it’s me and you who will do it. Go and make Africa great!’ he said in conclusion...and many of the delegates were in tears. Download Professor Lumumba's speech here>>
People from different regions had the chance to present their regional pains and concerns – most of our concerns are all related. Ranging from corruption, religion and tribal conflicts and wars, to disease, poverty, lack of jobs, illiteracy... With all this in mind and in reality, the delegates were challenged:- what is my part in the development of Africa? What are our hopes, dreams and possibilities for Africa and how can we achieve them? ‘I hope for an Africa where people can determine who leads them’, said one participant. ‘We need to develop positive attitude towards ourselves’ shared another.
The issue of African leadership and governance was not to be left behind. Two young men, Kimanthi (Kenya) and Tongo (Sudan,) together with David (USA) took us on a journey of what leadership and governance is and where probably we need to work on. ‘You cannot lead any other person if you can’t lead your own life. ...Good leadership comes from the heart’, David challenged the delegates. ‘We are living at a time when everything seems to be losing value or growing less. ...our conduct – worthless, our politics – shameless, our relationships – loveless, and our leadership – visionless...’ said the youngest speaker in the conference, Kimanthi. ‘We need to reclaim our positions on selfless servant leaders’, he added.
Every afternoon we had a session on ‘Living Experience’ where the delegates had the honour to listen to two personal stories – of what have made them who they are today, of their challenges, failure, success. They were moving stories of great courage. Stories of turning hatred into love, struggles to forgive and love again, the painful experiences of wars. One remarkable thing that happened during one of these sessions was a public apology made by one of the participants from North Sudan after one of the participant shared of his traumatic experiences due to the effect of the North and South wars. ‘I am very sorry for what happened. I feel that maybe you may never forgive us for what we did to you. I am sorry’.
Africa, at large, has been known and associated with a lot of evils – a place where people kill each other any time any day. Serious conflicts are as regular as prayer days! No wonder a conflict resolution session is inevitable for anyone who cares about Africa. To address this monster concern, we were very lucky to have the first public preview of An African Answer film which is a sister film to The Imam and the Pastor by FLT production. An African Answer was shot in Eldoret- one of the worst hit areas by the post election violence in 2007/8. After watching the film, people trickled on stage sharing what they felt and what they thought. ‘The influence of women in their homes is magnanimous, even unconsciously. If women become peace makers, the conflicts will stop’ a young mother commented. ‘We need to discover more peace makers. People who have suffered and can use their pain and experience as a tool to create peace’ said another one referring to the impact that Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye's experience is having on people.
What of Africa Economic Independence? This might be more of a wish! No wonder one of the speakers, Bedan Mbugua of Royal Media Kenya, decided to change the topic to Africa Economic Dependence! ‘Ás I prepared to come for this meeting, I realised that my suit, tie, shoe, glasses, watch...were all from the west. And found it unfit for me to talk of Africa independence.’ He asked all the delegates to check what they were wearing and where it came from...and true enough, at least 90 percent had their outfits from the west –what a shame! ‘Our economic independence will start by pulling together our resources’, he said.
Peter Munga, an ordained minister and the founder of Business as Mission Institute, inspired and challenged the crowd ‘We have so much of what the world needs but we do not believe in ourselves. We are the continent of the future....but we need to know where we are coming from so that we can know where are going’, he said. He also challenged people on the usual mentality that Africa is suffering because of the colonization period ‘The white man came and did what he did and left. What have we done better? What initiatives have we taken?’ he commented.
By the last day of the conference, a lot had been shared and discussed during sessions, over meal times and even in the shared accommodation rooms. Friendships had been made. People had been recharged and minds transformed individually and collectively. ‘I am taking home a different me’, shared one participant. ‘I am living behind commitments that have no integrity’ said another.
As James Mageria, Director of Karen Hospital said, Africa is the continent of the 21st century. But this will not be true if we don’t sacrifice and work hard. As Julius Khakula, the chairman of IofC Kenya, had said during the opening of the conference, “only Africans can make Africa, Africa!”
And yes, Professor Patrick Lumumba was right that “it can be done and it must be done!” He challenged all to go and make Africa great!
AFRICA I CARE!
By John Njoroge, Mbinyo Kimanthi and Ann Njeri
Who we are: Initiatives of Change (IofC) is a world-wide movement of people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, who are committed to the transformation of society through changes in human motives and behaviour, starting with their own.
Purpose: We work to inspire, equip and connect people to address world needs, starting with themselves, in the areas of trustbuilding, ethical leadership and sustainable living.
Omnia Marzouk, President, IofC International
'Nothing lasting can be built without a desire by people to live differently and exemplify the changes they want to see in society.'