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How African Charter on Democracy and Governance will help Nigeria

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Unarguably, democracy and good governance go hand in hand to achieve justice and equity for the citizens.

In spite of this, observers note with concern that good governance seems to be eluding African countries, including Nigeria occasioned by endemic corruption, among other malpractices.

In a bid to remove impediments to good governance in Africa, the African Union 8th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in 2007 adopted the African Governance Architecture (AGA) and African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG).

The motive of African leaders in adopting these documents is to stimulate adherence to the universal democratic values and principles which include respect for rule of law and human rights.

One of the objectives of the charter is to ensure that change of government is achieved through constitutional provisions.

Nigeria adopted ACDEG in 2007 and ratified it in January 2012 but it has yet to implement the charter.

A training for journalists entitled: “Mobilising Civil Society Support for the Implementation of AGA and ACDEG’’ organised by Actionaid Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation in Abuja recently was part of the steps toward ensuring implementation of the charter.

The charter has 42 provisions on virtually all the principles of democratic governance, inclusive of accountability.

It further provides that parties to the charter shall establish the necessary conditions to foster citizens’ participation, transparency, access to information, freedom of the press and accountability in the management of public affairs.

It has ample provisions on vertical and horizontal accountability measures to strengthen democracy on the continent.

One of the facilitators at the training, Mr Yusuf Shamsudeen, said that by ratifying the charter, Nigeria had expressed its willingness to implement the documents.

Shamsudeen, a Programme Officer with Centre for Democracy and Development, noted that implementation of the charter was imperative for Nigeria because the core values of its democracy were under threat.

According to him, Nigeria’s democracy is plagued by weak institutions, leadership problems, poverty, human rights abuse, corruption, unemployment and conflict, among other challenges.

“Nigeria, being a state party to the instrument, is bound to adhere to its core principles by domesticating ACDEG and AGA in the country because it stands to benefit greatly from it.

“By domestication, it means national laws should be formulated, if not available, and certain actions should be taken by the government to implement ACDEG principles in the country.

“This charter will take away the weaknesses of Nigeria’s democracy and strengthen its electoral processes, create equality, increase adherence to rule of law and human rights, among other systems.

“It will also eliminate all forms of discrimination and enhance fundamental freedom, while enhancing rights of persons with disabilities, women, minority, migrants, refugees, displaced persons and other marginalised social groups,’’ he explained.

Shamsudeen observed that the charter has all the necessary ingredients for the accomplishment of democratic accountability in Nigeria, if implemented.

He said that for the principles of ACDEG to be achieved, state parties must be committed to the provisions of the charter as stated in the framework.

“As part of the commitment, political and public sector institutions must be strengthened to deliver democratic dividends, be accountable and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the citizens.

“Also, elected government officials and public servants must see accountability as an obligation and part of the democratic rights of the citizens,’’ he said.

He insisted that civil society and the media must play their role by compelling elected and appointed government functionaries to be accountable to the people.

In this regard, Mr Tunde Aremu, a Consultant to Actionaid Nigeria, enjoined the media to effectively discharge their watchdog responsibility by holding leaders accountable in the implementation of policies, programmes and projects.

Aremu entitled his lecture at the training: “Understanding the Articles and Provisions of ACDEG and its Relevance to the Nigerian Democracy’’.

He said: “As journalists, you are the only profession that the constitution gave a responsibility to and that is to monitor the government and hold it accountable to its responsibilities, as expressly stated in Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution.

“You are to act as the watchdog of the society and ensure that the government implements agreements it signed up to, especially the ACDEG and AGA Charter’’.

He also said that journalists should highlight the socio-economic challenges confronting the people in their reportage as well as interrogate government policies and programmes with a view to engendering development and improvement in the general well-being of the people.

Participants in the training, therefore, noted that achieving this goal will require investigating governments, companies, organisations and individuals in order to uncover, present and publish reports on facts that people try to hide.

Mrs Nkechi Okoronkwo, the Acting Editor-in-Chief, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), also presented a paper entitled: “Fundamentals of Investigative Journalism’’ in which she underscored the importance of investigative reporting.

She told the participants in the training that the job of journalists was to let people know about happenings in the society and around them.

She observed that in many cases, people in government and positions of authority attempted hiding facts.

“It is the duty of journalists to uncover these hidden facts and inform their readers or listeners accordingly.

“In many other cases, governments, companies, organisations and individuals try to hide decisions or events which affect other people.

“Such actions border on selfish motives such as corruption, compromise, misappropriation, underhand dealings, abuse and breaking the law, among others.

“People have a right to know about the society in which they live; they have a right to know about decisions which may affect them, even if people in power want to keep them secret,’’ she said.

Okoronkwo said that people in power, whether in government, the world of commerce, or any other group in the society could also abuse power, be corrupt, steal money, break laws and do all sorts of things which harm other people or they might just be incompetent and unable to do their jobs properly.

“Such people would usually try to keep this knowledge secret and it behoves journalists to expose such abuses.

“It is also the responsibility of the media to watch how well people in power do their jobs, especially those elected into public offices,’’ she advised.

Okoronkwo, therefore, urged journalists to constantly ask whether such people were keeping their election promises and if not, they should be exposed.

She urged the media to be diligent in its duty, respect the ethics of the profession, fact-check their reports and present only the truth to the public.

According to her, when the media discharges its duties effectively and efficiently, the government will sit up, the rule of law will be upheld, policies will be diligently be implemented and the nation will be better off.

In his remark, Mr Arome Agenyi, the Campaign and Advocacy Officer of Actionaid Nigeria, said: “ACDEG and AGA are developed to assist African countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

He also said that the training was organised to enlighten journalists about the charter and equip them to communicate the importance of the charter to the government and the general public through the publication of reports on the principles of ACDEG.

He said that effective implementation of ACDEG objectives could be achieved only if conscious efforts were made to promote comprehensive ratification and domestication of ACDEG across the continent.

All in all, participants in the training called for the implementation of ACDEG to address the critical challenges plaguing African nations such as corruption, lack of accountability, disrespect for rule of law and human rights abuses, among others.(NANFeatures)

**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

NANFeatures/Vol.12/No.100/2018 (Sept. 1)

How African Charter on Democracy and Governance will help Nigeria

By Angela Atabo, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

Unarguably, democracy and good governance go hand in hand to achieve justice and equity for the citizens.

In spite of this, observers note with concern that good governance seems to be eluding African countries, including Nigeria occasioned by endemic corruption, among other malpractices.

In a bid to remove impediments to good governance in Africa, the African Union 8th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in 2007 adopted the African Governance Architecture (AGA) and African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG).

The motive of African leaders in adopting these documents is to stimulate adherence to the universal democratic values and principles which include respect for rule of law and human rights.

One of the objectives of the charter is to ensure that change of government is achieved through constitutional provisions.

Nigeria adopted ACDEG in 2007 and ratified it in January 2012 but it has yet to implement the charter.

A training for journalists entitled: “Mobilising Civil Society Support for the Implementation of AGA and ACDEG’’ organised by Actionaid Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation in Abuja recently was part of the steps toward ensuring implementation of the charter.

The charter has 42 provisions on virtually all the principles of democratic governance, inclusive of accountability.

It further provides that parties to the charter shall establish the necessary conditions to foster citizens’ participation, transparency, access to information, freedom of the press and accountability in the management of public affairs.

It has ample provisions on vertical and horizontal accountability measures to strengthen democracy on the continent.

One of the facilitators at the training, Mr Yusuf Shamsudeen, said that by ratifying the charter, Nigeria had expressed its willingness to implement the documents.

Shamsudeen, a Programme Officer with Centre for Democracy and Development, noted that implementation of the charter was imperative for Nigeria because the core values of its democracy were under threat.

According to him, Nigeria’s democracy is plagued by weak institutions, leadership problems, poverty, human rights abuse, corruption, unemployment and conflict, among other challenges.

“Nigeria, being a state party to the instrument, is bound to adhere to its core principles by domesticating ACDEG and AGA in the country because it stands to benefit greatly from it.

“By domestication, it means national laws should be formulated, if not available, and certain actions should be taken by the government to implement ACDEG principles in the country.

“This charter will take away the weaknesses of Nigeria’s democracy and strengthen its electoral processes, create equality, increase adherence to rule of law and human rights, among other systems.

“It will also eliminate all forms of discrimination and enhance fundamental freedom, while enhancing rights of persons with disabilities, women, minority, migrants, refugees, displaced persons and other marginalised social groups,’’ he explained.

Shamsudeen observed that the charter has all the necessary ingredients for the accomplishment of democratic accountability in Nigeria, if implemented.

He said that for the principles of ACDEG to be achieved, state parties must be committed to the provisions of the charter as stated in the framework.

“As part of the commitment, political and public sector institutions must be strengthened to deliver democratic dividends, be accountable and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the citizens.

“Also, elected government officials and public servants must see accountability as an obligation and part of the democratic rights of the citizens,’’ he said.

He insisted that civil society and the media must play their role by compelling elected and appointed government functionaries to be accountable to the people.

In this regard, Mr Tunde Aremu, a Consultant to Actionaid Nigeria, enjoined the media to effectively discharge their watchdog responsibility by holding leaders accountable in the implementation of policies, programmes and projects.

Aremu entitled his lecture at the training: “Understanding the Articles and Provisions of ACDEG and its Relevance to the Nigerian Democracy’’.

He said: “As journalists, you are the only profession that the constitution gave a responsibility to and that is to monitor the government and hold it accountable to its responsibilities, as expressly stated in Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution.

“You are to act as the watchdog of the society and ensure that the government implements agreements it signed up to, especially the ACDEG and AGA Charter’’.

He also said that journalists should highlight the socio-economic challenges confronting the people in their reportage as well as interrogate government policies and programmes with a view to engendering development and improvement in the general well-being of the people.

Participants in the training, therefore, noted that achieving this goal will require investigating governments, companies, organisations and individuals in order to uncover, present and publish reports on facts that people try to hide.

Mrs Nkechi Okoronkwo, the Acting Editor-in-Chief, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), also presented a paper entitled: “Fundamentals of Investigative Journalism’’ in which she underscored the importance of investigative reporting.

She told the participants in the training that the job of journalists was to let people know about happenings in the society and around them.

She observed that in many cases, people in government and positions of authority attempted hiding facts.

“It is the duty of journalists to uncover these hidden facts and inform their readers or listeners accordingly.

“In many other cases, governments, companies, organisations and individuals try to hide decisions or events which affect other people.

“Such actions border on selfish motives such as corruption, compromise, misappropriation, underhand dealings, abuse and breaking the law, among others.

“People have a right to know about the society in which they live; they have a right to know about decisions which may affect them, even if people in power want to keep them secret,’’ she said.

Okoronkwo said that people in power, whether in government, the world of commerce, or any other group in the society could also abuse power, be corrupt, steal money, break laws and do all sorts of things which harm other people or they might just be incompetent and unable to do their jobs properly.

“Such people would usually try to keep this knowledge secret and it behoves journalists to expose such abuses.

“It is also the responsibility of the media to watch how well people in power do their jobs, especially those elected into public offices,’’ she advised.

Okoronkwo, therefore, urged journalists to constantly ask whether such people were keeping their election promises and if not, they should be exposed.

She urged the media to be diligent in its duty, respect the ethics of the profession, fact-check their reports and present only the truth to the public.

According to her, when the media discharges its duties effectively and efficiently, the government will sit up, the rule of law will be upheld, policies will be diligently be implemented and the nation will be better off.

In his remark, Mr Arome Agenyi, the Campaign and Advocacy Officer of Actionaid Nigeria, said: “ACDEG and AGA are developed to assist African countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

He also said that the training was organised to enlighten journalists about the charter and equip them to communicate the importance of the charter to the government and the general public through the publication of reports on the principles of ACDEG.

He said that effective implementation of ACDEG objectives could be achieved only if conscious efforts were made to promote comprehensive ratification and domestication of ACDEG across the continent.

All in all, participants in the training called for the implementation of ACDEG to address the critical challenges plaguing African nations such as corruption, lack of accountability, disrespect for rule of law and human rights abuses, among others.

(By Angela Atabo/NAN)

 

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Africa speaks

With All Due Respect…Grow Up: Open Letter to African Leadership

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Article By: Seun Shokunbi

There’s an old parenting adage that says if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?

As much as my 12-year-old self cringed when I heard it, my now 30-something year-old self has to admit that my mom was right. You don’t need to copy everything your friends or peers do or tell you to do.

African leaders would be wise to take this same advice. Amid this COVID-19 crisis, many new buzzwords abound like “flatten the curve” and “social distancing”. It’s no question that we all need to take actions to reduce if not prevent the peak of the virus’ spread, but quick research will tell you that social distancing (used usually to describe isolating in one’s home indefinitely) is not the one and only method for achieving this.

Evidence from South Korea proves the point. Yet most African nations decided to mimic Europe and the U.S. by mandating citizens to stay at home and close all non-essential businesses to contain the contagious disease.

Now I’ve never been president of a country, and the extent of my public health service ends at coughing into my elbow. But that’s what makes this more frightening — that a basic person like me can immediately see the problem here. One of the basic qualities missing in African leadership is the instinct to make data-driven decisions.

We have a habit of watching what the “cool kids” are doing (i.e. the West) and just copying exactly what they do. We pay no attention to context or to designing solutions that work in our best interest. It’s like we’re trying so hard to impress, hoping the West is flattered more by our imitation rather than our efficacy.

I was triggered to write this by an op-ed published recently by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the latest adoptee of the Western powers-that-be who look for a poster child to represent their ideal Africa. I don’t hold any bad feelings towards Ahmed. However, I got uncomfortable reading his piece for a couple of reasons.

The first had to do with tone. Frankly, I’m tired of us playing to this notion of African countries being helpless unless the mightier “developed” countries pity us. Ahmed wrote, “African countries…lack the wherewithal to make similarly meaningful interventions” mitigating the consequences of the coronavirus spread, and that “the G20 must provide collective leadership” as one of the most pressing solutions to the crisis.

Meanwhile, the G20 consists majorly of Eurocentric nations (including U.S., UK, and Germany) and just one African country (South Africa), an anomalous representative of the continent for reasons not beneficial in situations like this.

Interview: Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy For Girls Executive Director, Gugulethu Ndebele On Girls And Leadership

It worries me that prominent leaders or Nobel laureates would make the rookie mistake of discussing Africa as a monolith, rather than 54 independent states with nuanced environments. The way a pandemic hits South Africa will be very different from the damage it does in the Central African Republic.

So if the Prime Minister is suggesting that South Africa be the mouthpiece

for the continent at the metaphorical cool kids’ table (i.e the G20), that suggestion is myopic in that the one country cannot comprehensively speak on a strategy that best prepares all of Africa for this type of public health/economic disruption.

And if he’s suggesting that the G20 as a whole be the global mouthpiece for how to prep for situations like this, he’s jumping off the bridge with friends, just because they say so.

Recommendations like the one from the Prime Minister jump the gun, bypassing the most pressing first ask anyone should really make: what can African leaders do for themselves with what they have NOW?

We can admit that, historically, the Western world is the lead culprit for putting African nations in a vulnerable position financially and politically. TLDR, watch this great documentary on that issue.

But that does not absolve the faults of African leaders.

By faults, I’m not just referring to that deference African leaders show to the West or African leaders’ inexcusable mistreatment of their citizens. Those aside, logic would suggest that the developed world would see how neglecting public health strategies in African nations would eventually have an impact on them, given the growth of globalized trade and travel.

How many times has the West proven that common sense isn’t so common? We have undeniable evidence in the way the United States (now the epicenter of COVID-19) wasn’t prepared to prevent or manage the stress of a deadly contagion on its healthcare system.

So when the cool kids are busy getting themselves out of trouble, what do we (Africa) do? Twiddle our thumbs, or use our own brains to self-regulate?

It’s fair to continue demanding relief from what essentially equates to predatory loan agreements keeping African countries crippled with debt. But until that utopian moment when the West stops asking us for our lunch money, African heads of state need to examine their own insecurities and, frankly, find the maturity to hold themselves accountable for what they know needs to be done.

For example, South Africa has had an ongoing debate about providing universal healthcare to its 57 million population for 13 years. The biggest concern? Not how much it will cost, or where the funding will come. It’s whether South Africa’s leadership has the self-control to not pocket the funds for themselves as they did with the country’s National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Here’s another wise quote, taken from India’s assassinated prime minister Indira Gandhi:

“Beware of ministers who can do nothing without money, and those who want to do everything with money.”

I’m not naive to think that Africa doesn’t have a SERIOUS cash problem created by colonialism. But I’m wary of those who keep trying to guilt-trip the West into charity. Especially when they refuse to ask why Africa hasn’t learned how to walk on its own two feet.

What do you think?

I’m thinking of starting a business of my own that solves this problem.

I feel the same way — tired of lower standards that keep Africans at risk economically.

I don’t think you’re seeing the full picture, and I have a different point of view.

Article By: Seun Shokunbi Principal Consultant Karfi

Visit: Seun Shokunbi

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Africa speaks

Anna Collard: Finding the optimistic within the pandemic

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Anna Collard, CEO, Popcorn Training, a subsidiary of KnowBe4

The coronavirus pandemic has hit society, business and education at a speed that few could predict, and shaken foundations in ways that none could have anticipated. In the news, only a few items escape Covid-19 in the title. On social media it’s memes and fears about the virus. It’s hard for people to remain upbeat in the face of lockdowns, limited social contact and complex working conditions. Or is it?

“Whatever you focus the most on, that’s what you will get more of,” says Anna Collard, CEO, Popcorn Training, a subsidiary of KnowBe4. “Even before coronavirus there was enough bad news online and on social media to make most people want to sit in a dark room. At this time, when the entire world is shifting on its axis, it has never been more important to focus on the positive and the ways in which this change can benefit us.”

The digital lifestyle

Yes, digital working from home has been thrust upon us, but what stands out in the midst of all the bad news is how most companies could do just that – send their employees home. It highlights the true value of the internet and the IT teams that are working to make it happen and the potential that the digital lifestyle could offer South Africa in the future. From e-learning to working from home to building new businesses that will shine in the post-covid-19 era, society is rapidly advancing to becoming completely digital in an incredibly short period of time.

This digital evolution has also made a huge difference to people who are locked in alone or who crave human contact. Apps are bringing people together in new ways and giving people the chance to reconnect when times are tough. These same apps are being used in virtual conferencing and meetings so that teams can connect and businesses can keep moving into an uncertain future.

The wealth of information

There is immense value in information and coronavirus has brought that to millions of people who are now more aware about hand hygiene and health. This has meant that these people know more about washing their hands, distancing themselves from ill people and minimising the spread of disease than ever before. This will not only help in slowing the spread of coronavirus but the spread of other diseases today and in the future.

The security factor

Organisations are more aware of security than ever before because their employees are working from home and opening up new avenues of risk. This is the perfect time to secure Wi-Fi routers, train people to learn more about phishing and scams, and to protect people from fraud. Companies are investing more into security controls and training to help protect both their assets and their employees. KnowBe4 have created a lot of free content helping companies secure their home workers by making them more aware of the cyber threats and how to stay safe while working from home.

Also Read: Women in Tech: Interview With Anna Collard, Founder Popcorn Training – A KnowBe4 Company

Harnessing creativity

A moment of stillness. An hour of boredom. While this may not be possible for those with families, these moments are invaluable when it comes to igniting creativity and innovative thought. This lockdown could inspire people to come up with new ideas and new businesses, give entrepreneurs the time they need to reshape their ideas, and result in unexpected disruption in unexpected spaces across the world. Creative solutions are definitely needed right now and this time of enforced solitude and thinking is an opportunity for people to find them.

Appreciation and empathy

In Cape Town a restaurant owner shut her doors firmly, more worried about those with HIV than her bottom line. In Johannesburg, the owner of a car repair shop spent his weekend buying supplies for the old age home about to enter lockdown so that the residents didn’t risk their health. Empathy is changing the way people engage with one another while appreciation of the little things and these moments are allowing us to see what’s really important.

Popcorn Training

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Africa speaks

Cynthia M. Wright: Thoughts on IWD 2020 – Each for Equal

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Cynthia Musafili Wright

Leading with inordinate authenticity as a substitute for the adoption of personalities basing on other’s expectations might crack more governance potentiality in women and, at the same time, hasten their influences within their respective organizations, according to the United Nations. If women are not authentic in society and at the same time are not recognized, appreciated, and respected,most would want to do what is required of them to perform and succeed in most departments.

Additionally, in case the political/ competitive societal behavior is harmful, women might be forced to be something that they are not leading to gender mainstream issues. Hence, women might feel unworthy and unsustainable to do what they have to do for authentic leadership. Men, on the other hand, when asked to comment about their level of authenticity, might assert that being authentic is not a perfect ideal or acceptable in the society/ workplace.

In the contemporary out weighed male society, women have struggled to be authentic. Women have to conform to the societal principles and femininity to fit into society without seeming masculine. The discord of upholding such a sweet spot is hard and more draining for women. Women can, therefore, flourish in a male subjugated culture. However, it comes with enormous emotional and psychological costs. Women must nurture a compelling, authentic, and feminine societal presence.

Also Read: Women in Tech: Interview With Ellen Fischat, Founder Story Room and Inspiring Fifty SA Ambassador

In simpler terms, women must focus on their strengths if they want to cultivate authentic leadership and not copy what men do to make their presence seen. Authentic leadership,powered by a commanding purpose,assists other leaders (men and women) in inspiring others. Both men and women can display dominant and authentic leadership ideologies. The promotion of feminine authentic leadership doctrines must not be regarded as a male-female issue. It is all about whether society overlooks certain physiognomies vital in navigating global and

communal/ societal challenges. Highly authentic leaders can also articulate their life choices, for instance, work-life balance, bearing children, freeing oneself out of bad situations, managing their careers, and setting their financial goals. When women can effectively manage these life goals, authentic leadership qualities often emanate among them. Highly authentic women leaders determinedly design their personal lives according to their top-most life precedence.

“If they can’t lift you. They can’t drop you. Step into your power” (The Purposeful Leader – 10 Steps to Becoming the Leader You are Born to Be – On Amazon) There are four significant strategies women can apply to lead authentically. Women must increase their self-awareness. Increasing self-awareness is one vital component of acting authentically. It also makes women acceptable and trusted with leadership positions. Once women know their strengths and values, they must adequately assess and also evaluate themselves and pinpoint what is best for them.

After evaluating themselves, women must take action, starting with smaller steps and slowly integrate the values that align with their values and behaviours. Getting support from men helps in personal development among women and the promotion of gender equality in society. Developing authentic leadership qualities requires risks and women having faith in their judgments. When in power, women must also avoid acting like men as it makes them lose their authenticity. Trusting in their talents and abilities is what makes women authentic leaders.

Women must not be overjoyed by the powers granted to them while in leadership positions. They must make judgments and act beyond the societal stereotypes to pave the way for other young leaders after them to see them as authentic leaders. They can do this by creating gender equality programs to help upcoming women leaders know their worth in the society.Women in leadership positions must also have a personal social responsibility to create and motivate other leaders. They must immediately start capitalizing on their instant successors so that we can create a ripple effect.

Leadership must be quantifiable, and one effective way to do so is the creation of a more authentic leader. They also need to exhibit the qualities that made earn those positions. That is what makes gender equality in leadership more sustainable.

Article By: Cynthia Musafili Wright, A speaker, Author, Entrepreneur, Aged Care Clinical Consultant and Philanthropist.

Visit: Cynthia Musafili Wright

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