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Zambian eyes AU post

afrol News/ZANIS Feature Service, 28 November - In continuing Zambia's contribution towards African unity, peace, economic development and integration, government has floated Zambia's current Ambassador to the United States of America Dr Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika as canditate for the post of Chairperson for the African Union (AU).

She says: "We salute the pioneers in the struggle for social equality, economic development, democracy and political self determination of African people's on the continent and its islands as well as its Diaspora. In this salute, we of course, include founders and administrators of the Organisation for African Unity, OAU, and its successor the African Union, AU.

We congratulate, in particular, the freedom fighters in the last leg of the struggle for African self determination against European settler minority rule, in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde and South Africa.

The hour has now come for a decisively higher and sustainably firmer gear drive to qualitatively advance African cooperation and integration built upon the experience and foundations that have been laid, she says.

Born 64 years ago, Dr Inonge is daughter of Mbikusita Lewanika, pioneer trade unionist and founder president-General of the Northern Rhodesia African Congress and King of Barotseland (1968 – 1977).

She is granddaughter of King Lewanika I of Barotseland (1878-1916) one of the African Kings on the Upper House of Chiefs of the South African Native National Congress at its founding in 1912.

Dr Lewanika has trode virtually the entire length and breadth of life. She has associated with the OAU since the 1970s particularly with preparation of the Charter of the African Child and attended various OAU/AU meetings.

She has served in UNICEF in 42 African countries with various government departments and communities. She was among 10 African women who visited Rwanda soon after the genocide on a solidarity Peace Mission in 1994. Dr Inonge Mbikusita Lewanika has also participated in many UN panels for social development over the past two decades.

Her major strengths include strong skills for political mobilisation at the global, national and community levels. She is also a strong advocate for social development, in particular gender affairs, youth and rural development. She is a team builder, a conflict resolution expert with strong knowledge of international organisations, policies and programmes in particular the African Union.

These are but just a tip of the long and inexhaustible list of attributes, qualities and achievements this humble, down-to-earth Zambian diplomat possesses and wishes to bring in the leadership of the continent.

"I strongly believe a successful strategy for the future of the continent lies in uniting Africans to Africa through economic development, peaceful resolution of conflicts and in shaping the African image throughout the world," she says.

Dr Lewanika envisages an African Union that serves as a channel towards a politically sovereign, economically self-sustainable and socially caring Africa that fulfills its long standing aspirations for freedom, justice and equality.

Academically, the Zambian candidate for the position of AU Commission Chairperson, holds a PhD in Early Childhood and Education obtained from New York University in the USA and a Masters in Education and Psychology obtained from California University also in the USA.

She further holds a Bachelor of Science in Home Economics and Education also obtained from California University and trained in Associated Arts at Orange College in the USA.

Professionally, Dr. Lewanika holds a Diploma in Peace and Conflict Resolution obtained from Uppsala University in Sweden. She holds a certificate in French from the Institute de Francais in France and another Certificate in Advanced Leadership Training obtained from Haggai Institute of Advanced Leadership Training in Singapore.

Dr Lewanika has vast experience in economic development work as she has worked in various United Nations agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP, WHO, UNFPA and UNIFEM for the past 35 years.

"Among many other things, I also have been a promoter and advocate for the ideals of the AU and NEPAD in Africa and other parts of the world."

The Zambian candidate is also a founding member of AMANI Forum, Parliamentarians for Peace in Eastern and Southern Africa in the late 1990.

In Zambia, Dr. Lewanika worked as a Lecturer at the University of Zambia, at Mongu Teachers Training College and Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka and was the Pioneer of Pre-School Movement in Zambia in 1973.

UNICEF awarded her Outstanding Service to Children in New York in 1990 and in 2003 she was given a Human Rights Leadership award by the Freedom Magazine in California, USA.

Other notable awards Dr Lewanika has received includes the Hall of Fame in 2005 from Orange Coast College in the USA and the Athena International Award for Leadership and Improving Lives of others which she got in Chicago, USA in 2006. This is in addition to the Ambassador of the Year Award she got in the same year at Howard University and the Women Ambassadors Foundation in Washington DC in the USA.

Early in 2007, she was awarded the Alumni Achievement Award in New York and was also named among 12 Diplomats with International Clout in Washington out of the 178 Ambassadors in the Washington Life.

" My years of experience in diplomatic relations, as a resourceful counsel and educator, have served me well and, if elected, I will serve the AU Commission well in the future. As you are aware that the AU is broad based and all its organs need to be brought together. To do that you need a broad based, experienced and hands-on leader and not a
ceremonial one," says Dr Lewanika.

She adds: " You need a leader with experience in all facets of African life like me. I have worked for women and men, for children and the aged, governments, traditional as well as religious leaders. I have worked with NGOs, with refugees and I have lived in both rural and urban areas. I have worked with Africans in the Diaspora also. There is no other candidate who has worked in 42 countries in Africa and has such a combination like the one I have. Africa is really in for a treat and excitement."

"It is my earnest wish to support the mission of the Assembly of the AU Heads of State and Government as well as the Executive Council of Ministers. I welcome the opportunity to serve as an emissary for them in carrying forward the positive strides made during the previous administrations of the AU," she says.

Dr Lewanika wants to see an Africa that is able to keep its people out of the indignities of poverty, external dependency and diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB.

She envisages an Africa that demonstrates a vibrancy and positive contribution to peace and development and facilitates the realization of the common vision of a united and strong Africa, which enjoys all inclusive and accommodating organizational, national and regional systems of solidarity and cohesion in diversity.

Describing herself as the 'Best Gift for Africa now,' Dr Lewanika wants to see consolidated political systems that effectively promote peace, security and stability on the continent.

She notes with sadness how Africa has been wrongly portrayed a situation she is determined to reverse so that the continent can take its rightful place on the global arena.

"The World has learned and borrowed from Africa's ancient civilizations, kingdoms and trade. Africa has contributed significantly to the development of several countries and continents the world-over. Some of the industrialized nations are what they are today because of the human and material resources they benefited from Africa." says Dr Lewanika.

At the AU Commission, Dr Lewanika hopes to be part of a collective instrument for African leaders and people to build upon the positive momentum in exploring innovative strategies that would address the concerns and challenges of the African citizenry particularly women, young people and rural populations at national, regional and continental levels.

She has so far received overwhelming support from government and the people of Zambia in her bid for the AU Chair. President of the Pan-African Parliamentarians Dr Getrude Mongela, Zambian Ambassadors abroad and African Peer Review Mechanism, APRM, Panel lead member Graca Machel, have also already confirmed their support for DR Lewanika's candidancy for the AU top job.

The former Mozambican First Lady said during her visit to Zambia recently that she would help mobilise African women to solicit more support for the Zambian candidate.
"With her qualifications and exposure, Dr Lewanika has all it takes to represent Africa on the continental body effectively,"remarked Mrs Machel.

"I believe I have no threat for this position especially considering the fact that southern Africa has never had someone lead the OAU or AU. If we have to go by rotation, this is southern Africa's turn to be at the helm of the AU," says Dr Lewanika.

"I encourage the citizens of southern Africa and the continent at large to look at the experience of the candidates on offer in addition to political appointments. They should also look at the role the countries have played in the liberation struggle on the continent," says Dr Lewanika.

"As for Zambia, we have played a big role in various peace processes . We have shown leadership in the SADC and we extended a helping hand during the liberation struggles and apartheid in South Africa. This is the number one consideration voters and other countries need to check," says Dr Lewanika.

Dr Inonge points out that women are capable leaders and it is time an Africa woman was given a chance to head the AU.

"I'm ready, willing and able to serve as the servant of Africa for the promotion of the welbeing of the continent and its people; for the greater solidarity spirit and firmer unity of action between and among African countries and societies.

I have been preparing for this opportunity my entire life. In fact, in Silozi, my very name 'Inonge' means 'to unite nations.' So, is Africa looking for the next AU Chairperson, I'm that person," says the Zambian AU candidate.

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