Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Participants of the All Africa Conference in a session (Photo: Mbindyo Kimanthi)

Africa's youth are the key and at the heart of several strategic opportunities for the continent to offer sound leadership, create working governance structures and fight corruption. This was the decisive call at the recently concluded All Africa Conference in Yaounde, Cameroon. More than 80 delegates, both young and old from over ten countries in Africa and beyond, gathered to explore the dynamism of youth in creating a bright future for generations to come. The All Africa conference was organized under the auspices of the Cameroon Association for Moral Re-Armament/Initiatives of Change (CAMRA/IofC), in collaboration with the Africa Co-ordination Group (ACG) with the theme ' Governance, Leadership and Corruption in Africa - what hope for the Continent's youth?’. 

Dr. Omnia Marzouk, the President of IofC International, giving her key note address at the opening ceremony. (Photo: Mbindyo Kimanthi)In her address during the opening ceremony at the Yaounde Conference Centre, Dr Omnia Marzouk, the President of Initiatives of Change International, said, ‘You (the youth) have inspiring African role models, young and old, who have shown that major changes are possible, and the time is right for your generation… You are more powerful than you think if you are armed with the truth and principles.’  

Tapping into her own experience, Dr Marzouk shared how she had to examine the credibility gap in her own life based on the four moral values of IofC. ‘We can all become leaders in our own small way provided we are willing to examine our own motivation and deal with the credibility gap in our own lives… questions of good governance, leadership and fight against corruption are too important to be left only to the politicians and those in power,’ adding that ‘… sustainable good governance systems need to have at their heart, men and women of moral integrity.’ 

Alluding to the Arab Spring, Dr Marzouk noted that the changes that have taken place in the Arab world last year have clearly shown that young people with moral courage can make a difference, hold politicians accountable and shape their own destiny. She shared the story of Kim Beazley, a long serving former Member of Parliament in Australia, when he realized that the idea of Moral Re-Armament was no cheap subscribing to principles, but involved costly restitution to put into practice. She emphasized the importance of people evaluating their motives and quoted  Beazley's biography where he says, ‘I have come to believe that the question of motive is the key to social advance. If your motive is power, you will most likely distort the truth. If your motive is the truth, you will be fit for power.’ 

Dr. Omnia Marzouk, the President of IofC International (2nd left) with  the Mayor of Younde (left), Cameroon Government representative (2nd  right) and the President of IofC Cameroon (far right) during the opening  of the All Africa Conference in Cameroon (Photo: Mbindyo Kimanthi)

Present at the opening ceremony was the Mayor of Yaounde and a representative of the Ministry of Youth and Civic Education, both of whom emphasised the importance of good governance and leadership in Africa. Also speaking from the same platform was Adalbert Otou-Nguini, President IofC Cameroon. He expressed his desire and hope that the conference would help delegates draw from the experience of those who have succeeded in tackling governance and leadership challenges in Africa and elsewhere and use their lessons and inputs to mobilize those committed to Africa to join together in initiatives to make our continent a place of security and progress for all its people. 

Cardinal Tumi, a very respected personality in Cameroon (right) and Pierre Oko-Mengue, the former President of IofC Cameroon (left) at a Plenary session. (Photo: Mbindyo Kimanthi)

Speaking on Leadership, Cardinal Tumi, one of Cameroon’s most outspoken voices, called on the youth to ‘love work that is well done, persevere doing work and be humble and disciplined as they serve.’ He also urged the youth to be of pure hearts. 

The panel sessions on Governance, Leadership and Corruption hosted personalities with a wealth of experience on diverse matters in Africa. Anthony Duigan a consultant from South Africa expressed the need to bring God into the heart of leadership and governance and to challenge the materialism that has taken over people’s lives. Anthony Duigan (South Africa-right), Pro. Eboussi-Boulaga (Cameroon- centre) and Prof. D. Oyono (Cameroon- right) during the Governance plenary. (Photo: Mbindyo Kimanthi)For Prof Eboussi Boulaga – a lecturer from Yaounde University, governance means being sensitive to the people you are leading and their aspirations. Senator Moise Nyarugabo – a legislator from Congo, is convinced that ‘Africa is suffering from a lack of good leaders. Most of our leaders lack vision and calling and are in power for their own personal gain.’ He continued to say that leadership is not about having everything but knowing how to use the available resources. 

Ashwin Patel, a chartered accountant from Kenya, shared his experience of fighting corruption as a businessman in Kenya and encouraged people not to worship wealth but to gather courage to return that which doesn’t belong to them. ‘I am ready to die in poverty rather than live with wealth that I have not worked for’, he said. Other panel speakers at the conference included Prof Oyono, the National coordinator of the National Governance Programme, Baba Claude, a lay missionary who is a member of the Cameroon MRA /IofC Board, and Madam Nadege Ngo-Nlend from the University of Douala. 

Dr. Omnia Marzouk and the British High Commissioner Mr. Bharat Joshi at a cocktail hosted at the High Commissioners residence. (Photo: Mbindyo Kimanthi)

British High Commissioner, Mr Bharat Joshi, hosted all the conference delegates for a reception at his home. Speaking to the conference delegates, he said, ‘There is a risk when the world is changing so fast that we lose our moral compass, we lose the things that keep us true to ourselves.’ He continued to say that what genuinely makes people happy is not just money, ‘it is your spirit, your morals and what you can give to the society.’ Also present at the reception were Ambassadors from USA, Egypt, France and Switzerland.  

Curtains fell on Friday 11 May 2012 and many of the participants went back home having made decisions and commitments that will see them apply the words of Mahatma Gandhi: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’  

By Ann Njeri & Mbindyo Kimanthi

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