Tags: Editor's Pick | melady | african | leaders | missionaries

Ambassador Melady: African Founding Fathers Exposed to Western Ideas

Thursday, 20 Sep 2012 02:26 PM

By Henry J. Reske and John Bachman

Ten African leaders who essentially became the George Washingtons of their countries all shared one experience: exposure to Western ideas through missionaries, Margaret Badum Melady and her husband Ambassador Thomas Patrick Melady tell Newsmax.TV.

The two, who have written a new book “Ten African Heroes,” witnessed firsthand the sweeping changes that came in the 1960’s when many African nations earned independence. Thomas served as ambassador to Uganda and Burundi, as well as the Vatican and Margaret was president of the American University in Rome and is an authority on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Watch the exclusive interview here.

Thomas said that the 10 they chose to profile were “those that we knew quite well personally, had correspondence with them and, as you probably noted, all but one are now deceased. So we wanted something in the record because it was basically very good news. They were, in fact, the George Washingtons of their respective countries.”

Margaret added that “one of the things that we noted was that they were all educated by missionaries and it could have been Protestant missionaries, Catholic missionaries and, in one instance, we had a Muslim.

“But they were all imbued with, or at least were in touch with, Western values, and this was very important because they took those values to be their own and it was extremely important in terms of trying to forge their own countries and to decide what direction to take whether it was going to be a revolution of violence, for example, or whether it was going to be one in which there was a peaceful change.”

Thomas said that initially many of the countries embraced a form of socialism but has since gravitated toward capitalism.

“Let’s take the early 60s,” he said. “They just became independent. Now, there’s no question that socialism, I mean traditional socialism, was attractive to them because, as Julius Nyerere said of Tanzania, the traditional philosophy was Ujamaa: the community, working together. It didn’t distress competition so much as working together and sharing. So socialism, by and large, in the 60s, was a word we heard frequently.

“But, now, as time passed on, it became modified and certainly places like the Ivory Coast and most of all of the other independent states have a form of capitalism that may be modified by some aspects of the welfare state but, clearly, what does that mean as you make a judgment now 60 years after 1960 is that they essentially rejected communism before the fall of communism and the Soviet Union for various reasons. One, personally, was because they couldn’t really accept the rejection of the presence of God, of atheism. They couldn’t accept atheism.”

Commenting on concern about China’s expanding role in Africa and fears that they are hoping to gain influence on the continent, Thomas noted others have tried.

“There is a definite Chinese presence and we’ll leave it to others to comment on what some feel is fearful and part of a greater program of the Republic of China to gain influence on that continent,” he said. “All I can do is cite what happened to another country outside of Africa that wanted to do that, that was the Soviet Union, and it was essentially rejected. So, right now, we have certainly a presence of China impacting all of the 53 sovereign states, but first of all an embassy, and some sort of aid which are all very practical things. We’ll leave it to others to discuss whether or not it’s part of another plot to bring Africa into their realm of influence.”

Thomas believes that in “the long term, the values established by these 10 leaders, and others, by the way, will prevail” and Margaret added, “Those first leaders were extremely idealistic.”

“Now, you have leaders who, after so many years of independence, understand that maybe everything is not going to be done in one day and so they’re a little bit more practical and understand that it’s a long road ahead,” she said. “Now, I can’t really judge whether every country is on the right road but I’m sure that many of them are on the right road but it just is going to require a lot of patience and hard work.”

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