Freedom fighter turned statesman Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, the president of the 54th session of the UN General Assembly, spoke to an attentive group of 125 on the campus and outlined his hopes and dreams for both Africa and the United Nations.
“I am where the UN is and I am, in this new millennium, leading the UN, along with my brother and colleague (UN Secretary General) Kofi Annan, where it’s going: towards a better, brighter and humane future for humanity,” said Gurirab.
Gurirab said that former freedom fighters like himself are now at the forefront for social change and economic development in Africa. A native of Namibia, he received both his bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in international relations at Temple University in Pennsylvania. Earlier this year he was awarded an honorary doctor of law degree from the University of Namibia.
In 1972 he became the UN representative of Namibia’s national liberation movement (SWAPO), until 1986. He was also one of the leading negotiators of the cease-fire agreement, signed in March 1989, between South Africa’s apartheid regime and SWAPO, which set the pace for the elections in Namibia and its transition to independence. In 1990 he became the independent Namibia’s Foreign Minister, a position which he still holds.
Gurirab explained the catalyst for change in African countries is “African people themselves,” and while he acknowledged many obstacles still loom, “the will and determination of the people cannot be denied anymore—Africa’s time has come. We are talking about a new beginning, which we are expressing in a form of an African Renaissance. ”
“I want to help transfer the dreams of the people into real and funded programs,” Gurirab said. “Empowerment and practical knowledge are desperately needed for our people to benefit.”
The continent of Africa has the largest bloc of United Nation member states. Among the core issues facing the UN as a whole include gender equality, the proliferation of small arms in Third Worlds countries, HIV/AIDS and financing of development, Gurirab said.
Gurirab’s speech was part of the 2000 Distinguished Guest Lectures Series, sponsored by UB’s New England Center for International and Regional Studies.