African Presidential Roundtable at B.U. Ends with Call to “Tell Africa’s Whole Story”
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(Boston, Mass.) — Eleven African former heads of state Wednesday concluded the African Presidential Roundtable 2005, sponsored by Boston University’s African Presidential Archives and Research Center (APARC), with a call for more balanced coverage of their continent by the American news media.
“The problems in African countries deserve to be brought under the light of public scrutiny; but the continent’s progress and potential also deserve to see the light of day,” they said in a joint statement concluding the Roundtable which began last week with sessions in Johannesburg, South Africa, and ended at Boston University. “Our point is simple: Tell Africa’s whole story.”
The transcontinental gathering allowed the former presidents to privately discuss with business, government, and academic leaders issues impacting U.S.-African relations. Topics included the recent report by the Commission for Africa, established by U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, negative perceptions of Africa in the U.S. media, and who is accountable for enhancing African economic development.
“If our deliberations were to be summarized in a word, that word would be accountability,” said Ketumile Masire, former president of Botswana who hosted the gathering, as the Balfour African President-in-Residence at Boston University, along with APARC Director Charles Stith, a former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania.
“We acknowledge the need for African leadership to be accountable relative to matters like good governance, peace and stability, and transparency in our economies,” Masire said. “(But) if initiatives like the UN Millennium Development Goals, the Commission for Africa Report, and the Millennium Challenge Account are going to be worth more than the paper they are written on, then the West is also going to need to be accountable relative to its commitments to partner with Africa.”
The former heads of state participating included: Nicéphore D. Soglo of Benin; Sir Q. Ketumile J. Masire of Botswana; Pierre Buyoya of Burundi; António Mascarenhas Monteiro of Cape Verde; Aristides Maria Pereira of Cape Verde; Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawlings of Ghana; Daniel arap Moi of Kenya; Sam Nujoma of Namibia; Karl Auguste Offmann of Mauritius; Dr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam of Mauritius; Joaquim Alberto Chissano of Mozambique; Ali Hassan Mwinyi of Tanzania; and Dr. Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia.
APARC was established to complement Boston University’s African Studies program — one of America’s oldest, established in 1953 — as a resource for fostering democratization and free-market reform in Africa. In addition to hosting African former heads of state, it also serves as a repository for the documents of democratically elected African leaders, and organizes lecture series, academic conferences, and a visiting professors program.
Boston University is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States, with an enrollment of more than 29,000 students in its 17 schools and colleges. Over five decades, BU has established an international reputation for excellence in teaching and conducting research on Africa, and has built and maintained broad collaborations with institutions in Africa.
(Note to editors: For the full joint statement, see http://www.bu.edu/phpbin/news/releases/display.php?id=906.
For more on the Boston University’s APARC, see http://www.bu.edu/aparc.