Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Reality of Dual Citizenship

In 2004, Hope Sullivan Masters, Founder and President of the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation she established to continue her father’s work, asked me to head a project to develop the concept of dual citizenship. The interest in citizenship by African Americans in an African country had steadily risen after Reverend Sullivan was given citizenship in Cote d’Ivoire at the inaugural Africa-African American Summit in 1991.

When he created the bridge between Africa and America through his Summits in Africa, Reverend Sullivan sparked a passion among many in America for a genuine connection to Africa. There have long been African Americans who have worked for African liberation from this side of the Atlantic Ocean and those who have taken up residence on the continent. This year we honor the independence 50 years ago of 17 African nations. It was not until the wave of African independence that began in the 1950s that dual citizenship was even widely possible. Even so, real citizenship in another country carries both rights and responsibilities. Merely being given another country’s passport is not the whole story. That is what Reverend Sullivan knew from the beginning, and that is the gap that Mrs. Masters wanted to finally bridge.

Beginning with the first wave of African independence of countries such as Ghana, there have been Americans who repatriated to Africa because of their disgust with the blatant racism they experienced in America. Subsequently, there were those who repatriated because they simply felt more culturally akin to Africans. In many cases, however, they changed citizenship rather than took on an additional citizenship. The current dual citizenship effort is intended to build on the ties many feel either because of their longstanding interest in their ancestral homeland or because of a DNA test that linked them to a specific ethnic group in a specific country.

Technically, no country can give you dual citizenship. It results from acquiring citizenship in a new country and your current country not revoking your citizenship. Most dual citizens in America are from Mexico. The British have indelible citizenship that cannot be revoked. Jewish American can acquire automatic citizenship in Israel by virtue of their Jewish lineage. It is not something our government actively opposes.

“The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause,” says a State Department policy paper on dual nationality.

In fact, in order to lose your American citizenship, the State Department says you would have to freely and intentionally relinquish it. The government doesn’t take it from you; you have to give it up.

Potential problems include dual taxation, military service requirements where applicable, divided loyalty in the case of armed conflict, jurisdiction over crimes committed in one jurisdiction or another and extradition of those fleeing arrest in one of the countries. Some of us who are interested in a level of citizenship in Africa think more about their rights than their responsibilities and give no thought to how Africans may feel about an influx of Diasporans into their country. Think of how you would feel if even dozens of people suddenly showed up in your neighborhood without fully understanding the culture and unexpectedly changed the character of local elections and how life is lived.

All these challenges can be addressed, but we all need to recognize that they exist and not pretend this is all so easy. If that were the case, it would have been accomplished by now. Because of the complexities, we sought the advice and assistance of California attorney Anthony Archer, who researched and wrote a paper on dual citizenship that was presented at the eighth Leon H. Sullivan Summit in Arusha, Tanzania, in June 2008. Archer proposed three levels of citizenship that would allow governments to offer the benefits of citizenship on a graduated basis for Diasporans who wanted a certain level of involvement in their new homeland. We see this as mutually beneficial and an equitable method of developing a relationship that is meaningful in the long term.

Some people only seek to travel to Africa without current restrictions while they learn more about their proposed new homeland. Others want to do business or own property and be treated like a local businessperson. Others want the whole experience and intend to live at least part of the time in their new home.

Dual citizenship must be negotiated. One size does not fit all. Many of us would be unprepared to become full citizens in an African country we only discovered we had a tie to last week; others only want to be privileged regular visitors.

African leaders such as Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have expressed interest in developing closer ties with the African Diaspora, but the details still have to be worked out. We’ll all need to have some patience and understanding if this process is to work for both sides.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Brain Drain and African Governance

I attended a meeting at the World Bank this week to assess Africa’s needs and to suggest what the Bank’s response should be. Over and over, the topic of governance (or lack thereof) came up. Those who most mentioned governance as a problem were Africans themselves. These are, by and large, people who decided that their countries weren’t being run properly and decamped for America, Europe or elsewhere.

Young Africans, those born in their homeland who left for education purposes or opportunities elsewhere or who came with their families, also don’t feel obliged to return in large numbers. Selected situations like Ghana and Angola are seeing young people come home to start businesses where opportunity seems ripe. Still, the brain drain has struck Africa hard.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has estimated that Africa has lost a third of its human capital and continues to lose skilled personnel at an alarming rate. IOM and the Economic Commission for Africa gathered statistics showing that between 1960, when 17 African countries became independent, and 1974, when most had achieved independence, an average of 1,800 skilled Africans left their homelands for developed nations. Between 1975 and 1984, the rate had jumped to 4,000a year. Between 1985 and 1989, 12,000 skilled Africans each year left for what they thought were greener pastures, and since 1990, the rate has skyrocketed to 20,000 annually.

When many of us think of governance, we look at the African presidents and their cabinets. However, it is the middle management that provides information for policy decisions and implements those decisions once made. Is it any wonder, then, that decisions are made that seem puzzling to outsiders? Certainly there are smart people remaining, but they are not always in positions to provide sage advice, or their advice is not heeded. There just isn’t a critical mass of skilled personnel to carry the day in many of the councils of government. Those who remain in their homelands are heroes for wanting to give something back despite often trying circumstances.

There are people like the late Manute Bol who gave all he had to help his native land of Sudan, and there are many others who contribute to the progress of their countries while keeping a foot in their developed country home. IOM has managed several programs to allow them to do just that. But what I’d like to know is why so often when Africans talk about the Diaspora helping Africa, it is clear they mean only those born on the continent and not those of us whose ancestors came here centuries ago? I thought when the Organization of African Unity declared the African Diaspora the sixth region of the continent in 2003 that divide was eliminated. I guess not.

Members of the historic Diaspora also have made significant contributions to Africa because of their feeling of kinship or just because they want to help those in need. Through church missions, adopt-a-child programs or individual donations to a family they come to know, historic Diasporans have provided what could be considered remittances. Members of the Diaspora have created businesses in African countries or invested in African exchanges. Finally, through programs such as the Teachers for Africa program created by Reverend Leon H. Sullivan through the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help, members of the historic Diaspora (as well as non-Diasporans) have contributed their time and talent to the elevation of African societies.

So why is there still reluctance on the part of the recent African Diasporans in the developed world to join with us historic Diasporans to pool our talents and resources for the betterment of Africa?

African governments spend an average of US$4 billion a year to hire about 100,000 Western experts to handle functions considered to be technical assistance, which could have been performed by the African technicians, scientists and other professionals who no longer live there or their counterparts in the historic African Diaspora. Those Western experts, unfortunately, too seldom include a significant number of non-African born Diasporans.

Columnist Nicholas Kristof recently was forced to defend his coverage of Africa as portraying the situation in Africa as white knights coming to save the continent, but when you look at it, aren’t African governments paying them to do so? Is it the fault of white experts that they take the money they’re offered – either by African governments or developed country governments – to provide assistance to Africa? Both African and developed country governments could provide more opportunities for the African Diaspora to help Africa, but change doesn’t seem very likely on either of their parts.

So it’s up to the recent and historic Diasporas to band together to provide what help Africa needs. I don’t begrudge organizations such as Doctors Without Borders or individuals such as actress Angelina Jolie for stepping up to help Africa. God bless them for their generosity of spirit. But shouldn’t we in the Diaspora feel ashamed that someone else feels the need to carry the burden of our people when we are perfectly capable of doing so ourselves?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Shining the Light on African Revenue

The Senate last week approved a measure that will greatly benefit the cause of resource transparency in Africa and elsewhere in the world. The House of Representatives passed the measure last month, which now awaits President Barack Obama’s signature. Once he does, the provisions in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (also known as the Financial Reform Act) will help reduce corruption by forcing oil, gas and mining companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission to publicly disclose their tax and revenue payments to governments in countries in which they operate. There are numerous beneficiaries to this legislation.

First, the officials fighting corruption will have access to information comparing what companies have paid governments to what governments report. Billions of dollars have been stolen by corrupt government officials who underreport what companies have paid them. Now those engaged in the battle against corruption have more ammunition, making it easier for cases to be prosecuted against those who plunder their country’s natural resources.

Second, the American companies who make their tax and revenue payments to governments will be able to demonstrate to the people of the countries in which they operate that they have contributed to the common good. Too often, corrupt officials claim that companies have withheld payments as justification for not carrying through with promised social investments. By being required to reveal their contributions, American companies can justify their revelations as forced by U.S. law. Hopefully, other foreign companies will follow this practice and not place American companies at a competitive disadvantage.

Third, civil society organizations and the media who attempt to reveal corrupt government practices involving natural resources now have access to a public source of information that cannot be denied to them by corrupt officials protecting their schemes. Honest government officials who have provided such information have risked their careers and their lives for divulging such information. Now the media and civil society organizations can point to an international source for the information they cite.

Fourth, donors will have more accurate information on which to base decisions about which governments deserve and truly need development assistance. Without the information provided by this legislation, African governments have claimed to be more cash-poor than they really are, forcing American taxpayers and other foreign sources to meet the needs of African citizens that their governments could well afford to meet on their own.

Finally, the citizens of natural resource-rich countries have greater hope that their governments will use revenues from these resources to build roads, hospitals and schools and provide a real safety net for those citizens who need government help. Too often, it has been a hollow hope that paths will be turned into roads, the ill will find medical treatment and the young will have access to education. Resource-rich countries have failed to make progress toward reaching the Millennium Development Goals largely because available funding is diverted for selfish purposes.

This has been as long time in coming. Back in 2006, then-Africa Subcommittee Chairman Chris Smith, along with Congresswoman Diane Watson, introduced a resolution calling for transparency of natural resources in resource-rich countries. However, at the time, pressure from the corporate community led the Republican-controlled House to shelve the measure despite support in Congress. This time, Senators Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Sam Brownback (R-KS) and other Senators, as well as Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA), Howard Berman (D-CA) and Jim McDermott (D-WA) refused to let this opportunity pass them by.

Even before he was elected, President Obama has stressed the need for transparency among governments who seek our help. Now his administration and Congress have the information required to make sound judgments on justified foreign aid.

It is said that information is power, but in this case, information represents money not wasted, not stolen and not denied African people who have deserved better from their governments for so long.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Africa Is a Tempting Target for Terrorists

The three bombs that ripped through a festive night in the suburbs of the Ugandan capital city of Kampala were further proof that Islamic radicals on the continent have no problem using African civilians to make their point in the ongoing global war on terror. This time, more than 70 innocent people paid the ultimate price for an act of revenge by people for whom being African is only a coincidence. They apparently couldn’t care less that their fellow Africans had to die in order for them to establish their credentials as the latest group of world-class killers.

Al-Shebaab, or more properly Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahedeen (Movement of Warrior Youth), has long targeted outsiders daring to meddle in Somalian affairs. They struck out at anyone who stood against their effort to convert Muslim Somalia into a more strident Muslim Somalia. The last estimate of their strength was placed between 3,000 to 7,000 fighters. They control most of the central and southern parts of Somalia, including a large part of the capital city of Mogadishu. However, they apparently want to join the big leagues of terrorist groups who can strike at the “enemies of Islam” outside their borders.

At least a dozen terrorist bomb attacks in Africa have claimed innocent lives in just the past three years, including:

• Twin explosions killed at least 28 people in a Mogadishu mosque, while another 50 were wounded on May 1, 2010.

• An explosive-packed car detonated outside the Algerian prime minister’s office in Algiers, along with another bomb exploded in the suburbs of Bab Ezouar, claimed the lives of at least 24 people and wounded more than 220 others on February 16, 2010.

• Four suspected Islamic terrorists and a Moroccan police officer were killed in three explosions in Casablanca on February 15, 2010.

• A suicide bomber killed 57 people, including three Somali transitional government ministers, in Mogadishu on December 3, 2009.

• At least 21 people, including 17 African Union peacekeepers, were killed in two suicide bombings at the peacekeeping force base in Somalia on September 17, 2009.

• Somali National Security Minister Omar Hashi Aden and at least 20 others were killed in a suicide bomb attack in the central Somalian town of Beledweyne on June 18, 2009.

• At least 43 people were killed and another 45 were wounded in a bombing near a military school in Bumerdes proving in northern Algeria on August 19, 2008.

• Two car bombs in Algiers, targeting the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees and the neighboring United Nations Development Programme, killed at least 60 people and injured many others on December 11, 2007.

Perhaps the most infamous terrorist attacks happened on August 7, 1998, when hundreds of people were killed in bombings at the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Although the reason cited by al Qaeda in this case was revenge for the American role in the extradition and alleged torture in Egypt of four members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization, only 12 Americans perished in those bombings, and 211 Africans lost their lives, with more than 4,000 others wounded. These bombings were the first incidents that brought Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri to worldwide attention.

These terrorists are not fighting for independence from an oppressive colonial power. They do not struggle against those who would prevent them from worshipping God in their chosen way. They are not even fighting a war for survival. Were they not constantly engaged in killing people indiscriminately, they would not be hunted and killed as they are now.

They offer no justification for killing the worshippers in the mosque they destroyed. There is no apology for the innocent children caught in a bomb blast. No one sends flowers to the funerals of the parents whose deaths leave orphaned children. No explanation is offered for how this mayhem will make Africa stronger or better.

Africa’s future is in the hands of governments struggling to protect their citizens and those of their neighbors whom they seek to protect, like the Government of Uganda is doing in Somalia. In addition to the troops they have lost in a peacekeeping operation in Somalia, Uganda’s government now has civilian deaths on their home ground to explain to their citizens wondering why their lives are forfeit for people who apparently have no appreciation for their effort to help save the lives of others. Now some Ugandan legislators are considering pulling their troops out of the Somalian peacekeeping operation.

Unfortunately, you don’t actually have to actively do anything to earn death in the eye of these cold-blooded killers, and being an innocent fellow African is no protection from their wrath. Their idea of African unity is to join them or die. Not exactly what Haile Selassie, Kwame Nkrumah, LĂ©opold Senghor and others had in mind when they established the Organization of African Unity in 1963.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

African Unity: The Dream That Persists

The concept of the unity of Africa’s nations became possible after the wave of independence in the 1950s and 1960s, but it began long before then. The plan for the cooperation and integration of the African continent was embodied in the Organization of African Unity Charter in 1963 and made more explicit in the OAU Summits in 1973 and 1976. In 1991, the Abuja Treaty, established the African Economic Community program, has been in force since 1994.

The African Economic Community plan lays out steps that are to culminate by 2028 in an African common market:

By 1999, Regional Economic Communities were to be created or established. For all practical purposes, this has been completed. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara) is not participating in the Arab Mahgreb Union because Morocco still claims control of the territory, and Somalia understandably is not participating in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) it helped to establish in 1986 or the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) it joined in 2001.

By 2007, cooperation among and within the Regional Economic Communities was supposed to have taken place. While there has been progress, this phase cannot be said to have been completed because the IGAD not yet coordinated and harmonized activities of member states nor removed tariff and non-tariff barriers. This process is made more difficult by the fact that IGAD members also belong to other RECs, such as CEN-SAD, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) rules and regulations.

By 2017, a free trade union and customs union is to be established in each REC. This is now fully in force in the EAC, as well as the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA). The process is still stalled in IGAD and CEN-SAD, although there is progress elsewhere.

By 2019, a continent-wide customs union is to be established.

By 2023, an African Common Market is be to be established.

By 2028, a continent-wide economic and monetary union and currency union is to be established, along with an African parliament.

Only when all this is accomplished can discussion of the United States of Africa be realistically undertaken.

This economic union plan is an ambitious one, and while possible, it will be very difficult to achieve. Supporters of African unity often overlook the difficulties of similar efforts worldwide. There are European countries that still refuse to submit their economic and political policy decisions to the European Union structure or their currencies to the Euro. The very thought of increased union among the North American Free Trade Area countries (Canada, the United States and Mexico) send some people into fits of fury over conspiracy theories about usurped sovereignty.

The African countries attempting the colossal feat of economic and political union must bridge not only varying languages (Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and numerous ethnic dialects), but also differing legal systems and currencies. Moreover, the RECs have varying degrees of financial and human resources to put into accomplishing this task. There is dependency among some on outside funding.

The goal of harmonizing infrastructure is daunting. Transportation links were created to serve the colonial powers that put them in place and don’t serve the purpose of a united Africa. Overcoming that historic legacy is not easy to say the least. It is still easier to go through Europe to go from one part of Africa to another than traveling direct. Even when you can avoid going through Europe, it is often necessary to go through a third country before getting to the one next door.

Corruption, inadequate pay and lack of full government control over security forces and military means that unofficial checkpoints make inter-country transportation more costly than it should be. There is persistent conflict among countries regarding tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade; it’s as though the people in charge can’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak. Then it must be acknowledged that some governments just don’t want to open up to free trade among their neighbors for various reasons – some short-sighted, but some valid. There are, after all, legitimate concerns about international criminal activity being aided by open borders.

All of us who want to see the goal of African unity realized must admit the difficulty of this effort and try to help identify the challenges and help devise means of overcoming them, taking into account political obstacles from inside Africa and from without. We also must acknowledge that the lack of unity makes Africa attractive to those who make money from the lack of cohesion among its constituent parts. African unity is not in everyone’s interests, and there are those who have frustrated its progress and will continue to do so.

The African Union can become more than the name of an organization, but buckle up because it’s going to be a bumpy ride to get there.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

King Down, Women Up

The Ondo State government in Nigeria recently took a historic step as, for the first time ever, a traditional ruler was removed for committing domestic violence against his estranged wife. This represents not only an achievement for the state government, but also for women in the state, the country and indeed the entire continent.

The Deji of Akureland, Oba Oluwadare Adepoju, was deposed, arrested and banished by the Ondo State government and taken by police to an undisclosed town in the state pending the final report on the allegations of wife battering against Mrs. Olori Bolante Adepoju. The Deji and his entourage (including new wife Remi Abiola) reportedly burst into his ex-wife’s apartment, dragged her outside onto a busy street and beat her in public. If not for passerby stopping the beating, it is believed that Oba Adepoju was about to give her what is known as an “acid bath” – an unfortunately popular African punishment for wayward wives. Some acid was poured on Mrs. Adepoju.

Reports did not initially provide details on what instigated the Deji’s attack on his wife, but Oba Adepoju subsequently accused his former wife of adultery and collecting money in his name. She has filed a court action to declare that her two sons by Oba Adepoju – Adeboyega and Adesimbo – are his biological offspring.
The removal of the Deji was unprecedented. In tradition, obas are not only the heads of their towns or kingdoms, but are the personification of deities, representing ancestral authority. Their appointment is partly by divination made by the high chiefs of the jurisdiction in question. Ironically, obas are usually the ones dispensing justice.

The incident sparked protests by women’s organizations, such as the National Council of Women’s Society of Nigeria and Women Arise, who called upon traditional rulers in Nigeria to condemn the Deji’s actions. Indeed, leaders including Alhaji Akeem Yayi Akorede, the Chief Imam of Akureland; Chief Reuben Fasoranti, the Chairman of Afenefire; Chief Olu Falae, Prince Dayo Faloye, Honorable Justice Dare Aguda, Reverend Luyi Rotimi; Chief Femi Adekanye; Chief Sanya Oyisan, and other leaders all joined in condemning Oba Adepoju for what was called unbecoming conduct that “has eroded the sanctity, dignity and respect of the stool (chieftainship).”

The action of the state government and the concurrence of so many traditional and community leaders surely raised a cheer among women of Ondo State and Nigeria as a whole. Human rights reports indicate that as high as 50% of Nigerian women are victims of domestic abuse. The percentage could well be higher, but tolerance of violence against women in Nigeria may suppress the number of attacks reported or recorded.

According to tradition in many African societies, women are expected to take a subservient role to their husbands. African societies, unlike those in the West, are not built on individual rights, but rather on the family and its interests. The reproductive capacity of women is generally considered to be controlled by the husband and his family after marriage. Because of the bride price often is still paid by the husband’s family to his wife’s family, many wives are unable to leave an abusive husband unless her family refunds the bride price.

Injustice against females is ingrained in practices such as female circumcision, denial of widow inheritance, widowhood rites and female religious bondage. Matters involving domestic abuse are widely considered an internal matter for the family and not a public issue. That this case became public was partly because the offense was handled so publicly.

African societies are now in transition from being largely rural to becoming increasingly urban. Women who had previously stayed home or tended to family farms are more often now found in the workplace. Domestic researchers are finding that the increased interaction of women with other people in the workplace and the inability to keep to meal and other domestic schedules that had been established causes growing friction.

Modern African women are more educated, have money they earn on their own and are less willing to remain silent while being bossed or abused. It is a new day in Africa, and men must adjust to the modern African woman. The old days are gone and will not return.

It is even more heartening that governments like Ondo State can take actions to protect all of its citizens and not just men. In speaking with current and former residents of Ondo State, though, it is clear they do not yet realize the magnitude of what has been done. Women throughout Nigeria and Africa now have a precedent on which to base their own liberation from unjust traditions.

The new African woman – hear her roar.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Africa’s Next Generation

The Obama Administration is bringing to Washington next month several young African leaders from various walks of life in celebration of Africa’s independence. Rather than bringing in government officials or long-accomplished African figures, young men and women in their 20s and 30s will come representing Africa’s hope for the future.

This reminds me of the many times I have seen Africa’s future stifled or misled while on the continent. One prime example was the profusion of young politicians who emerged after Kenya declared multi-party democracy in the early 1990s. The Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) was a movement that brought together numerous young lawyers and activists to press for an end to one-party rule. Unfortunately, once that was achieved, the ego of older leaders couldn’t bridge ethnic divides, and FORD split into FORD-Kenya and Ford-Asili. I met some promising young leaders such as the late Michael Wamalw; Mukhisa Kitui, who became Minister of Trade, and Raila Odinga, now Prime Minister of Kenya.

I watched these young men plan and execute campaign strategy and win seats in Kenya’s Parliament from the then-ruling Kenya African National Union. However, older leaders such as Oginga Odinga and Kenneth Matiba could not overcome their political enmities from the past and split the vote in 1992, allowing President Daniel arap Moi to win reelection. The ethnic animosities prevented FORD from reassembling even after these leaders left the political stage.

Yet another set of young leaders formed the Democratic Party of Kenya, which produced women leaders, such as Martha Karua, who became Minister of Justice, and Charity Ngilu, Kenya’s first female candidate for president. This was a party established by young men and women who believed they needed an elder to give them gravitas at the outset, and they asked former Finance Minister Mwai Kibaki to head their party. He ran for president several times before winning in 2002. In the process, it became clear that he had no intention of stepping aside for a younger candidate.

What would have happened if the younger politicians who successfully achieved multi-party democracy in Kenya had been given a chance to collaborate and field a candidate in the 1990s?

In Mali, I met the family that ran the Bank of Africa – Mali. The father had sent his son abroad to learn business, but he wouldn’t accept the son’s advice on current accounting and finance practices. Rather, he trusted the Frenchman whose office was near his. Decisions went through the French adviser, not the trained son nor any other young Africans with degrees at the bank.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, young Islamic scholars in Guinea were sent to the Middle East for religious training, but came home radicalized. The imams they followed before they left no longer had their respect. The moderate brand of Islam practiced in West Africa was now too accepting of the Great Satan (the United States) or of Guineans who were seen as too Western in dress or social practices. Apparently, the imams and the parents of these young men hadn’t noticed that young Muslims in the Middle East were of a different strain of Islam than themselves.

In Zimbabwe, young men from rural areas – often under-educated and underemployed – were used as political thugs to beat opposition political party leaders and supporters and violently break up demonstrations. They were among the first wave that tore down houses in the hateful Operation Murambatsvina (Take Out the Trash). Supposedly, this operation was intended to be a sort of urban renewal program, by removing illegal structures. However, many of the houses had been built according to local regulations. And some even belonged to families of soldiers and policemen.

Perhaps the most horrific examples of the misuse of youth are the child soldiers in Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army. Young men become fighters, and young women become concubines. The boys become murderers before they become men, and even when they are rescued, they are feared and often unable to reintegrate into the communities from which they came. The girls become mothers, sometimes multiple times, and they are no longer desired wives once they are returned to their former homes. These young victims continue to be victimized by their training and treatment long after they are free. One wonders if they will ever be able to overcome their victimization and lead a life even slightly resembling the one taken from them.

In contrast to the tragedies and disappointments of those who came before them, the young men and women coming to America in August represent a brighter day for Africa. They have achieved admirable records in business, civil society and religious life. They are the ones who will lead their legislatures and executive branches, run multinational African companies, manage institutions of higher learning, advocate for the welfare of their people and guide the spiritual life of thousands, if not millions.

Mark well the young leaders you see next month. Among them could be the next Goodluck Jonathan.