Beiden, Bush, Clinton, Palin. Highly recognizable names of folks considered most likely runners for the 2016 Presidential race. (30+ others listed here.) On my trip to Congo I actually met two possible presidential hopefuls you’ve probably never heard of unless you live or have worked in Africa.
Sadly I neglected to take a photo with the man who told me I might very well be sitting with the future president of Sudan, one Mr. Khalid. Like Palin or Clinton, Khalid is an interesting character in his own right. A muslim politician who was traveling in a brown suit, didn’t mind shaking this woman’s hand, and freely answered my questions about Sudan and South Sudan, the effects of the war and the future direction of his country. Carefully worded answers that nonetheless revealed his concern for his people and his country, with consideration for his present audience of course. I wish him well and pray for a great leader to rise in Sudan, one who focuses on the needs of the people.
My thoughts turn more to the presidential elections in 2016 for the Democratic Republic of the Congo–where the need for a good leader is also great. His Excellency Joseph Kabila is, like President Barrack Obama, nearing the home stretch of his final term. Will there be a peaceful transition? Unfortunately, elections can set off violence that continues even after the results are in, as recently evident in Iraq, which no one involved in aid work like our education mission wants.
Although we might complain about dirty politics in the US, hanging chads are a far cry from the quiet elimination of potential candidates that sometimes occurs elsewhere around the world. Political maneuvering has begun not only in the US, and for the Congo subsequent protests last week were quickly followed by phone and internet disruptions which kept me from contact with our mission personnel in country. This could so easily have happened while I was there and would have worried my family and friends no end. I sat sidelined last week with concern, and an email from my friend (and FHA’s Operations Director) Bintu brought palpable relief as I waited in Holland for word.
Regardless, peoples of all walks of life are looking toward coming elections with hopes for better tomorrows. Like the citizens of the US, citizens of the DRC are looking around for who might make a good candidate. One politician, who is well liked and looked to by some, was at the border when I visited. I’ve no idea if he is considering making a big for office, but I asked Bintu about getting a photo with him.
“Why not?” she said and took me over to make introductions.
He was amiable in the midst of his busy day and consented to the photo, shook my hand, and asked what brought me to his country. While I don’t know if he is the man for the job any more than Sudan’s Mr. Khalid is, I appreciated the chance to interact with these leaders and found myself hoping I might one day say, “Oh President So-and-So, yes. I met him once. Seemed a nice fellow.”
Kristin King is an author and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa, a small educational mission in east Congo. Recently returned from spending Christmas in the Congo, she is currently blogging about the experience. Her views are her own and should in no way be considered as an endorsement for any particular political candidate.