From the end of September to early October 2013, I was in Accra, Ghana for a series of meetings at the continental headquarters of the Catholic Bishops in Africa and with Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra. The meeting highlighted the importance of taking practical steps to empower African communities to harness their resources to build a bright future.
We discussed ways AFJN can work together with African Church leaders to empower local communities promote good governance in Africa and enhance AFJN’s advocacy work in Washington.
Everyone agreed that tackling the problem of governance was key: poor governance is at the heart of Africa’s exploi-tation. The exploitation is such that every year, more money leaves Africa via corruption and tax evasion than the total Africa receives from all foreign aid combined. Many African rulers and their collaborators siphon Africa’s resources abroad, leaving the peoples of Africa in chronic poverty conditions.
As of December 2013, seven (7) current African leaders have collectively ruled their countries for over 211 years. In those African countries, there is no sign of these seven strong men leaving their positions of power. Instead, they devise every tactic to stay on.
In Accra, we discussed practical steps to realize the Empower Africa project. The Archdiocese of Accra will serve as the first pilot case with the focus at the grassroots levels. The Archdiocese will bring representatives from se-lect parishes for a three-day-training to include civic engagement, community organizing, and the role of Catholic Social Teachings in promoting the common good and a wholesome society.
We have developed concepts in partnership with The Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research, the workshops would not be academic; rather, a hands-on practical training. The content would draw from local resources, and adapted as it develops. Representatives would bring their local community issues for-ward and receive counsel on advocacy techniques. After the workshop, a team of facilitators from the archdiocese, the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and AFJN, would follow up with local Justice and Peace Office.
AFJN partnership with communities in Africa will ensure that their voices are heard in Washington through our advocacy. We are convinced that our focus at the grassroots level will do more for African communities and bring lasting benefits for the people.
Aniedi Okure, OP, AFJN Executive Director
This article was first published in our October-December Newsletter