Former African pres. speaks to students

Harriet Miranda

Antonio Manuel Mascarenhas Monteiro, former president of the Republic of Cape Verde, an island off the coast of West Africa, visited CSUN on Friday to give a speech to students about the state of Africa.

“The reality is that Africa does have problems. Every day, millions of Africans face difficulties and injustices,” Monteiro said. “Many children are condemned to live life in society’s margins.”

Monteiro was invited to speak on campus by the African Student Organization during Africa Week, an annual event held in mid October. But Monteiro was scheduled to give a lecture at UCLA during this same time so he decided to visit CSUN earlier.

For more than an hour, Monteiro spoke to students about the progress certain African countries have made since the beginning of the Millennium Project in 2002, a United Nations plan to reduce poverty and disease in underdeveloped countries.

“It is necessary to recognize that some of Africa’s countries have made considerable progress,” Monteiro said. “A few of them have done what was necessary to reach all the goals for the Millennium Challenge.”

A democratic government was one of the goals Monteiro stressed.

“Democracy is a critical factor for development and peace,” Monteiro said.

China has been a huge player in the development of many African countries, like Sudan, Angola and Cape Verde, Monteiro said.

“Some countries need humanitarian help, those in post-conflict states such as Chad, Somalia (and) Darfur,” Monteiro said. “But the others don’t. They need investment.”

China-Africa relations aren’t to be perceived as charity for the countries involved, but rather a long-term partnership of mutual benefits. Monteiro said the Africa-China Summit of 2006 produced a plan of doubling aid to Africa to the amount of $5 billion by 2009.

When asked if there was a conflict of interest in China’s presence in newly democratic nations due to the country’s communist ideologies, Monteiro said, “In Africa we must not be afraid of China’s (ideologies). In China they are not philanthropists, nor did they ever claim to be.”

“They have a policy of non-interference,” Monteiro said. “They have commercial relations (in mind).”

Later on during the speech, Monteiro addressed the conflict in Somalia and the widespread killings in Darfur.

“Peace seems hard to reach,” Monteiro said. “Difficulties we are facing today must be considered a step we can overcome. There will be a brighter day for Africa.”

After the speech, students had the opportunity to ask Monteiro questions and have pictures taken with him.

Tom Spencer-Walters, coordinator of the event and chair of the Pan-African Studies Department, said Monteiro offered viewpoints another person wouldn’t have been able to share with students.

“Monteiro was president for 10 years,” Spencers-Walters said. “He can shed some light on new developments in the continent (and talk about) how Africans take responsibility on their own development.”

Spencer-Walters said the speech was beneficial because the audience consisted of ASO members, who are preparing for upcoming Africa Week activities.

The theme for this year’s event is China-Africa relations, Spencer-Walters said.

“The African Student Organization is about educating people about Africa,” said Emmanuel Mefom, senior information systems major and ASO president. “There are misconceptions because of what is known through the media.

“The speech was very important because it is an actual government official telling us what is going on,” Mefom said. “It is very enlightening.”

October 22 through 26 will mark the seventh annual Africa Week.

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