The African Students Organization, first formed on campus in 1994, has been inactive for several years. But last summer a group of students, dismayed at negative and depressing portrayals of the continent in the news media, decided it was time to bring the group back.
“All we see on the news is war and hunger,” says group president Eric Ssebanakitta (ENG’08), who is from Uganda. “But there are also positive things, and we’re trying to show that side.”
The ASO, relaunched this fall, already has close to 75 members and has been a growing presence on campus throughout the semester. Now, on Thursday, November 3, the ASO and the Minority Engineers Society are cosponsoring the group’s real debut: a lecture by Sir Ketumile Masire, the former president of Botswana and the departing Balfour African President-in-Residence at BU. Masire has been at the University since March working with students, scholars, and policy makers. Created by BU’s African Presidential Archives and Research Center (APARC), the residency program is funded by a grant from the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation.
“We decided to do something before he leaves to educate people about the program,” says Rachel Sajous (ENG’08), the president of the Minority Engineers Society. “He will be talking about conflict resolution in Rwanda and the Congo.”
Other guest speakers scheduled to appear include the Rev. Charles Stith, former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania and APARC director, and Associate Provost James Pritchett, the director of the African Studies Center. The lecture will be held in the School of Law Auditorium at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a reception.
“It’s open to the whole University,” says Ssebanakitta, “and we hope students from other universities and throughout the Boston area will come.”
Ssebanakitta hopes that the event will help promote the ASO and the President-in-Residence Program, so that students can develop their own “objective interpretations” on Africa. Other events scheduled for this semester include an ongoing film series and a discussion with faculty members about current events in Africa.