Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Abidjan is missing Aubrey Hooks

A number of months have gone by since the last US Ambassador to the Ivory Coast left Abidjan. On the occasion of this year's Fathers' Day, we all remembered him. Last year, he was on TV doing something. Something which may be considered the very opposite of an Ambassador's job. Aubrey Hooks was cooking! A dish he learned from his grandmother!

Many Ambassadors have come and gone in the US Embassy in Abidjan, and in many other embassies as well in the country. But none has come close to the heart of the population as Aubrey Hooks. Aubrey Hooks toured more Ivorian towns than some natives. He proved that His Excellency can also be a man of the people.

He went down to places that many of the country's top shots would prefer to send their representatives. He associated with all levels of the population. We saw him at official dinners, at negotiation tables, and with the President. But we also saw him among townsfolk, refugees, young people and even school kids.

I remember him in cultural functions.. comedy, music, beauty pageants... all dressed up like the people and enjoying himself. I used to watch his body language... to decipher is he were doing social image-making for his country. Maybe he was, but he certainly had a personal interest in the things he did. You could see he had a love for culture, for the society, for humanity.

We are not in a position to evaluate his diplomatic results. In truth, we really do not want to. But one thing is sure. He did transcend that role. He had a face that has been lacking in many development issues – that of individuals who are not just doing their jobs and representing their countries, but of persons who are genuinely concerned about the population. Officials who really want to see the lives of the population improve, who want to see them happy.

Abidjan is missing you, Aubrey Hooks. Wherever you are... just note it. Like it is said here, you left a big hole in our hearts.

Maybe it is not really you, the individual that, we are missing, but what you represented – a partner who has respect for counterparts, who appreciates what is good about them and participates in their efforts to face their challenges.

We do hope to get more Aubreys... not just in Ivory Coast, but in Africa.


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