Home >> General >> Redi Tlhabi chats about Africa with Mary Robinson and Nobel Prize winners Jimmy Carter and Martti Ahtisaari

Redi Tlhabi chats about Africa with Mary Robinson and Nobel Prize winners Jimmy Carter and Martti Ahtisaari

South2North discusses ethical leadership in Africa with The Elders

This Friday on Al Jazeera’s talk show South2North, author and media personality Redi Tlhabi discusses ethical leadership in Africa with The Elders, a group of independent global leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights. Nobel laureate and former South African president Nelson Mandela handpicked the initial Elders in 2007.


In the second of two episodes filmed with The Elders at District Six Museum in Cape Town, Redi is joined by two Nobel Prize winners – former American President Jimmy Carter and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari – as well as Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland and a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Elders discuss the perception that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a court that’s just there to try Africans. Robinson acknowledges, “There is a view at the moment that Africa is being singled out… It’s important that the system is seen as fair. There are problems now of perception and we have to address that. “

She suggests the best way to combat this is to strengthen African courts to prosecute African offenders, so that involving the ICC would become the exception.

Using the recent conviction of former Liberian president Charles Taylor by a special international tribunal as an example, Carter points out, “Most of the people brought to justice so far have been delivered by their own people.”

The Elders also discuss the $5m Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which wasn’t awarded for the second year in a row in 2013.

Robinson and Ahtisaari both serve on the board of the foundation, which has awarded just three African leaders in its seven years: Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano; Botswana’s Festus Mogae; and Cape Verde’s Pedro Pires.

“To have three exceptional leaders who earned the award is a very good record in seven years,” says Robinson. “We never thought it would be awarded every year. It’s a small number of presidents who end their terms and are eligible. If Martti and I look around Europe, in a period of seven years, would we give a prize?”

Ahtisaari says it’s harder for African leaders to excel, not just because of the additional issues they face but because they lack the kind of institutional support he had in Finland. “It’s much more complicated to be a president in Africa because in many counties the institutions that are absolutely vital to run a country are not there.”

The Elders discuss the importance of education. Talking about Finland, Ahtisaari says, “I come from a part of the world where egalitarian policies are the norm. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor; you get a decent education, decent healthcare, and possibilities in life. I think it’s extremely important that these egalitarian policies are carried out throughout the world.”

Robinson, who is currently the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, says education is closely linked to peace. “Children are not in school in large parts of Eastern Congo because of rebel groups… They lose the possibility of being educated, or being children.”

The Elders also discuss the Arab Spring.

“If anyone in their right mind thought the outcome would be democracy, then they were dreaming,” says Ahtisaari. “Democracy does not come overnight.”

Robinson says the Arab Spring sent “a great message” about “universal human rights; a desire for fairness; an end of discrimination; and tackling joblessness. These are young people who said, ‘We want to have our voices heard; we want to live in a democracy.’ There are good reasons for young people to protest: we don’t have enough good models of governance that is for the people, that respects the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Sometimes people say they’re western values – I think it’s very important that they are Arab values, they are African values, they are values all over the world.“

Carter calls for patience with new democracies. “We have to be patient with these countries who are struggling for freedom,” he says. “It took a year to get a constitution in Egypt; it took America 12 years to get theirs, so the Africans are doing very well compared to the Americans.”

At the end of the show, Richard Branson, who co-founded The Elders with Peter Gabriel, called them, “an incredible group of global statesmen who put their egos behind them, politics behind them, who have no axes to grind, and who aren’t trying to get elected. The Elders have played a wonderful role in the last six years.”

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