Friday, August 22, 2008

Mourning the Loss of a Good African

I pondered the wording of the title of this blog. We tend to toss around superlatives so much that they have lost their meaning. Still, I wondered, as I post about the death of President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia, is "good" the right adjective. I started to say "great". In choosing not to use that word, I in no way want to imply that President Mwanawasa was not great. I think he was but "great" seemed to me to refer more to what someone has done rather than to his character. And I want to honour President Mwanawasa for who he was, not for what he has done (though he has done a lot).

At the same time, to say "a Good African" could be interpreted to mean either that I think there are no "good Africans" other than Mwanawasa or that a "good African" is so rare that Mwanawasa is an exception. While I think President Mwanawasa is an exception when compared to many, many African leaders, there are multitudes of "good Africans". After living in Kenya for more than 18 years, I know many of those "good Africans" and count them as dear friends and co-labourers.

So, the title should not be read as if I am denigrating President Mwanawasa's greatness or as if I am comparing him to others. It's intended to simply be a statement of my opinion of one man's character.

As president of Zambia since 2002, President Mwanawasa gave every evidence of wanting to improve the lot of the ordinary Zambian rather than wanting to improve the bottom line of his bank account. He seemed genuinely interested in rooting out corruption in his government; he was supportive of efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in Zambia and lent the weight of his office and his personality to the only sure way to prevent sexually transmitted HIV, abstinence until marriage and faithfulness after marriage; he looked for ways to improve the daily life of Zambians through clean water and care for orphans. Was he successful? Not completely -- that is a gargantuan task in any African country given the patterns of corruption and self-centeredness on the continent. But he tried and progress was made. All of those efforts were fueled by his heart, his concern for the people. And that's where his goodness shows.

In or about 2003, President Mwanawasa determined to follow Jesus as Lord of his life. From all appearances, that decision was sincere and he followed through, setting aside a r time to meet with his pastor and other members of his church for Bible study and prayer. That seems to have been the motivator of all of his efforts on behalf of Zambians. Not a perfect man -- no one of us is -- nor a man without his critics but a man who seemed, at least to this outsider, to be a good man who was an African.

News articles about President Mwanawasa:

Africa Continent's Legacy: The Levy Mwanawasa Pill
The Guardian
Southwestern Mourns the Death of Zambian President
Mwanawasa Slams Drug Takers
Obituary: Zambia's Levy Mwanawasa

Run well, y'all (both in life and on the road/trail),
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