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Former Cape Verde President Says Democracy is Africa’s Salvation

By Add Seymour, Jr.

Former Cape Verde President Antonio Monteiro (right) greets SGA President Stanley Onuoha as Walter E. Fluker, executive director of the Leadership Center looks on.

A VISIT BY FORMER CAPE VERDE president, His Excellency Antonio Monteiro, went a long way in highlighting the ongoing transformation of the African continent.

But Monteiro’s appearance also turned a spotlight on two local issues: metro Atlanta’s thriving Cape Verdian community and the importance of Morehouse’s relationship with The African Presidential Archives and Research Center (APARC) at Boston University.

Monteiro recently spoke to nearly 100 Morehouse faculty, students, staff and metro Atlanta residents during a lecture sponsored by the Leadership Center at Morehouse College and APARC. For nearly an hour, Monteiro, who was Cape Verde’s first democratically elected president, serving from 1991 to 2001, told of how the tenets of democracy—social justice and good government—have helped curtailed the ills of war, poverty and division that plagued the African continent.

“Democracy is a critical environment for development and peace,” he said. “It’s not the easy way, but it’s the only way to ensure the peace and further development (of African countries).”

He pointed to the rise of stronger governments and the increased investment and trade with outside countries, like China. He also alluded to the fact that the number of wars and conflicts within the continent has dropped from 60 to six over the past five years.

“I think the African Renaissance that so many of our leaders seek in Africa is possible,”Monteiro said. “I believe with your help and love, working together, Africans and African Americans can ensure that Africa’s time is now.”

Glynis Ramos-Mitchell was glad to hear how things were looking up in her native land. But Ramos-Mitchell, who is the president of the Cape Verdians of Atlanta, was just glad Monteiro was able to come to Atlanta.

“It’s important—very, very important,” she said after Monteiro’s speech. “People don’t really know about Cape Verdians. They don’t understand that it’s a real country or even a part of Africa. So any opportunity for exposure for the culture and for people to learn about the country, that’s really important. It really helps us to expand our definitions of who Africans are.”

That’s part of the mission of the APARC program.

The Leadership Center is part of the African and American Universities Collaborative, which unites them with APARC. As part of the program, Monteiro is the current Lloyd G. Balfour African President-in-Residence at Morehouse and at Boston University. Previous African presidents who’ve been part of the program came from Zambia, Botswana, Liberia and Mauritius.

Leadership Center executive director Walter Fluker said the center’s involvement in this kind of program gives students direct exposure to the African continent, its peoples and governments, though face-to-face dialogue and visits.

“It’s transformed lives,” said Fluker. “I’ve taken students to South Africa. They’re changed because of the international connection.”

Terry Mills, dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, said the chance to hear directly from a leader like Monteiro is invaluable.

“I think it’s a tremendous chance for our scholars to have this one-on-one connection with individuals who aren’t just speaking on leadership, but who are applying leadership in the real world.”

And being at Morehouse wasn’t lost on Monteiro, especially since it is the alma mater of one of his personal heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. ’4

“[It] is another reason why I feel so honored to address you,” Monteiro said.

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