Today was a very informative day for the Fellows and an exciting day of the MILEAD Program. The Fellows received a talk from the former President of Ghana, President Rawlings. After introductions the Fellows had the opportunity to ask five questions which he or his spokesperson would answer. Lola asked about what Mr. Rawlings thought regarding the conflict in French-speaking African countries today, and Ines spoke about the difficulty that the youth are having today in the Ivory Coast and asked for any advice for the youth from the President. Halima was curious about the effectiveness of the African Union and how the young leaders can make the African Union the best it can be in the future. Serrainne asked about the President’s leadership strategy and more specifically the Structural Adjustment Programs that took place under his lead and the final question from Kula was regarding the President’s future plans and hopes for Africa.
The spokesperson for former President Rawlings gave a short speech about the state of democracy in Africa and Ghana today. He explained how all too often, we have replaced democracy with elections. However elections in themselves do not equal democracy. Bold and decisive leadership is necessary, and he urged the Fellows not to wait for people to give opportunities you to reform democracies in their own countries.
President Rawlings then began his talk with the Fellows. The overall theme of his speech was regarding the values that exist in African, and more specifically Ghanaian, society today. Without morals, society does not move forward. He stressed that society is structured on values, and when these values start to disintegrate society could fall into chaos. He explained that the quest to restore values in Ghana is what led to the revolt of 1979. A society that does not recognize good work from bad work creates a static situation that needs to change. Another major theme of the speech was that human management is a way of life, but human manipulation is wrong. Too often, humans are manipulated. The might of right is more civilized than the right of might and we all must strive to make sure our actions reflect this. It is important not to be afraid of the righteous forces within society. He urged the Fellows to be cunning and know when to speak in order to create change within their own societies. Additionally, technology will allow all of the Fellows to stay in touch, and this weapon will give them and their societies freedom and power.
After returning to campus, there was a small presentation by Eibhlín Ní Chléirigh on project design and implementation. Since there was not much time, she and the Fellows agreed to hold an online session after the three-week institute to catch up on the material.