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The politics of strong women coming


As I have said in this column before, and it bears repeating, “There are those who do, and those who keep saying what they’re going to do; those who bring it and deserve to be praised, and those who just want to be praised yet bring nothing beyond hot air.” We know that it takes all kinds to stay in the mix.

We also know that there are so many things that need doing just to get through the day sane, let alone taking a little or a lot of time to help somebody else along. The tasks–and other peoples’ problems–can be enormous, and when we think about what help Africa needs, what Central America asks for, and what many islands in the Caribbean can use, or even just the neighbors down the street, we often feel crushed and defeated before trying to do anything.

But we should all know by now that none of us, alone, can do it all; nor should we try. Instead, we should concentrate on the good that we can do, and do that well, do that consistently, do it sincerely.

In praise of African women who keep getting it done, this has been a rather remarkable 12 months. First, two African sisters were co-winners (with a Yemen activist) of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. These were Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of the Republic of Liberia, and Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian community organizer. The Yemeni sister was Tawakel Karman, and collectively the three women won the award, “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s right to full participation in peace-building work.”

During these last two months, there has been a very tight public contest for the presidency of the World Bank, the super-capitalist entity created to help Europe recover from WWII, and performing more recently as a major instrument of neo-colonialism. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Ph.D., the present managing director of the World Bank and internationally known financial expert from Nigeria, well represented herself in the competition that included Jim Yong Kim, Ph.D., the president of Dartmouth College and the eventual winner, and Dr. Jose A. Ocampo, the Colombian finance minister. Never before has there been such a spirited contest to head the bank, which routinely gets an American appointed as CEO via an agreement made with France and other European powers at the 1944 origins of the bank as part of the Bretton Woods process.

As others have done regarding the changing of the paradigm for Augusta National and the Masters Golf Tournament, more than 40 international financial experts recommended Okonjo-Iweala and directly challenged this ‘ole boys network.’ In the end, the most qualified did not prevail, but she definitely paved a pathway for another strong female candidate to be appointed next time, or the next.

Additionally, Africa now has its second female head of state, out of 55 presidents, kings and sheiks. In early April, Vice President Joyce Banda became the president of Malawi, amid intrigue, conspiracy and a campaign of negativity aimed at destroying her credibility and legitimacy. None of it worked, and Banda proved herself more than equal to the high-stakes game of thrones played regarding succession after the previous president, Bingu Mutharika, died abruptly of a heart attack.

Mutharika’s family and loyalist staff members hid the death from the public for three days, and spirited the dead body out of Malawi and into South Africa, claiming the president was merely ill and needed treatment outside of the country. The cabal then tried to convene the Malawian Parliament in the president’s name in order to urge the lawmakers to change the Malawi constitution regarding line of succession. While they convinced a few Parliamentary members, they were incapable of persuading the majority. Meanwhile, the word leaked out about President Mutharika’s death.

The country’s top legal body ruled that Banda was the person authorized to step into the presidency, and she did, bringing a big broom with her. She fired and sacked virtually everyone in senior positions who had worked for President Mutharika, and cleared her administration and state house immediately of gold diggers and hustlers.

Along with Johnson Sirleaf, President Banda heads one of Africa’s two or three poorest countries in terms of average life expectancy, per capita income, food production and distribution, and access to foreign exchange resources. However, Malawi does hold real riches in terms of its gemstones, cement, coal, dolomite and some untapped petroleum, etc., but has signed too much of it away to foreign companies. Banda will certainly need some co-champions to help her build Malawi’s capacity and infrastructure back to competency and growth.

Africa needs all of its talented daughters, sons, cousins and other kith and kin to achieve the African Union’s ultimate goal of a Union of African States. It feels good to know that our skilled and schooled African sisterhood is not standing on the sidelines, but is instead right in the heart of the thing. With this kind of merit, I can already begin to see the outlines of the light at the end of the long tunnel.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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