Dr. Okello Oculi, Executive Director, AFRICA VISION 525, contributes to what is shaping up as an important issue
One Problem which the meeting of former African Presidents should propose urgent solutions to is the poverty of access to African leaders by African journalists and academics who wish to interrogate their views both for current analysis and as archival material for future scholars. The thick forest of inaccessibility, often in brutal contrast to the ease with which foreign journalists and researchers gain access to African Presidents and Heads of State, denies them the benefit of more empathetic analysis by African analysts serving as a shield and aggressive prism through which views of foreign journalists and scholars must make reflective contact.
It is deeply regretable that Mwalimu Nyerere (easily one of the more accessible leaders while in office, for example), left behind few African scholars and journalists who can claim to be experts on his ideas and political legacy. The legacies of Modibo Keita, Tafawa Balewa, Gamal Nasser,
Leopold Senghor, Jomo Kenyata all fall faithfully in this sad line of poverty in intellectual harvest by African journalists and scholars.
One way out of it is to combine meetings such as the current one which the former Presidents are having, with interview sessions with journalists and scholars who are selected from all regions of the continent and the African diaspora. A funding mechanism could be
conceived for it by His Excellency Omar Konare and his team at the AU secretariat.
African historians and social scientists share a lot of the blame in the terrible silence which has covered up this wound. The European tradition of declaring time limits over when state documents can be opened to researchers has a greedy cousin in the intellectual
discrimination which African intellectuals suffer over access to African office holders and leaders in general. It is time to fight for open heavens.
I hope you can e-mail this to the leaders.