Saturday, November 29, 2008

Of Presidencial places and meetings

I have been moving round places that I can call 'presidential' for the past few days. Enormous hotels with gold trimmings on wood. Deep red carpets that very soft to the foot... and lots of security.

The security is one thing... Oh My God! You need to show a photo ID before you can go and have your picture taken so that you can get a badge which will allow you access to the main hall where you can now apply for a pass! And all the 'Security' men who are so keen on executing orders that they forget to think.. capable of asking you to 'go over there and they will attend to you' even if the original question was 'What time is it?' or 'What is your name?' Impressive!

When you are done with security, you get into the opulence.. and you just wonder why so much money is being spent on 'things' instead of 'people'. Not necessarily that I am against a country showing off its 'grandeur' in its monumental places, and keeping up a great image to keep up its national pride, but I just wonder... how come so much is being spent on 'monuments' when human beings, makers of history, are languishing in many places.

Tell you what, in such places, they talk Africa. Oh, We need to help Africa. Oh, Africa needs aid. Certainly we need to increase support to bla bla bla. And mobilize funds for X, Y, Z so that Africans will be able to access 1, 2, 3. The amount spent on the talk, and the circumstances of the talk, will certainly outweigh, in many cases, the actual aid... And like someone rightly said, the amount of aid going to Africa cannot compare to the amount of illicit funds that are moved out of Africa. Making me think that if you are claiming to be poor, you might as well work to get yourself out of the situation.. the more you sit and wait for someone to 'take care of you', the more opportunities you gave to him/her to 'take care of himself using your circumstances'.

Ah, you know what, in these meetings, African delegations are the heaviest. The delegations from 'Developed' countries are at most 10. But tell you what, the Africa presidents are here, with a delegation of well over 20! The difference is so CLEAR, I could cry! With their own protocol officers, security officers, press, advisors, secretaries, cabinet chiefs, ministers.. who would like to come along with spouses..

On the contrary, the simplicity of folks who have been there, done that, seen that. Who know that most of it is talk and that the things that matter are the ones that are done behind the press, with little or no attention. Like the Ivorian President once said 'l'argent n'aime pas le bruit'. Literally translating into 'Cash hates noise'. No big economic decision are made in 'presidencial' places.

These meetings serve as announcement platforms for work that has already been done and needs to be publicly made known, or for quieter networking opportunities. They are difficult places for power show... why? Because when you have 50 heads of states meeting, you find out all of a sudden that they are just like you and me. When you have 10 up front, 8 by your right, 7 behind, 10 by the left and a dozen of them coming and going.. it hits you clean and clear... these guys are just participants..

Particpants and nothing else. All the security, all the gold, the protocol, the press, the talk.. all of that.. does not make any president more human than any other human being..

So Mister President, when you are tempted to behave as if the whole world of 'the country' is under your control, that you can give and take lives, that your word will never be argued or debated... that your wishes are national agenda... never are a participant.

Nothing more, nothing less.