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Mr. Vasu Gounden is the founder and Executive Director of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) - www.accord.org.za Mr. Gounden, a co-author of the book Shaping a new Africa (on alternative perspective for a viable Africa) held a workshop on African solutions for African conflicts in this year's AFRIKADAG, the biggest Dutch event on development cooperation held on 14 April in Den Haag.
It was at this unique event, attended by such luminaries as Jerry Rawlings (former President of Ghana), Bert Koenders (Dutch Minister of Development Cooperation and Dr. Mo Ibrahim (founder of Celtel) among others, that two Editors of The African Bulletin had an opportunity to chat with Mr. Gounden. Please read the exciting excerpt from the interview:
The African Bulletin: You have a long and intimidating resume as a mediator, trainer and researcher in the field of conflict resolution. How did you end up in this field?
Vasu Gounden: In my previous life, I was a lawyer representing people in conflicts and before that, I was a student leader creating conflicts and you can say for the better part of my life I have been in conflicts. For now, I am in the field assisting to resolve conflicts. I use to practice as a Human Right lawyer in
TAB: What is the central message of the book Shaping a new
Gounden: The authors are all Africans. We are writing about our continent, not just about the problems but how to resolve them. The conventional wisdom in the world is that the Africans are always in conflict but few people understand or really look back at history and see that
TAB: Why is this book different from other books on mediation and conflict resolutions in
Gounden: Many books written about
TAB: Some blame conflicts in
Gounden: Yes, colonialism had impact on
TAB: Most analysts say peace in
Gounden: Yes. Why are these people fighting wars to take over the governments and control resources? It would have been different if they are controlling resources that benefit the people, but they are controlling resources that ends up in their own pockets; buy houses in Europe etc. That kind of corruption is leading to the stagnation of the continent and we want to root that out, but we can't do it by ourselves. We cannot talk about peer review mechanism of NEPAD if we do not have peer review mechanism in
TAB: How genuine is the intention of the West to help
Gounden: If you look at statistics, donor aid is a tiny percentage of money that goes to
TAB: Does the West have more to gain from the poor state of infrastructures in
Gounden: As long as the new generation of Africans collude with African governments and elites that extort the resources for themselves, the continent will get nowhere. What do we innovate in
TAB: The African Union is often criticized as too bureaucratic and ineffective in preventing or settling conflicts. How do you advocate African solutions for African conflicts?
Gounden: The African
TAB: How big is literacy a factor in moving
Gounden: I am a firm believer that education is a great equalizer. In
TAB: You once spoke of unlocking
Gounden: Peace is the big factor that we need that gives the pace for development. You can't have development in the middle of a war as the entire development factor is broken. Peace creates the climate for development to take place. What we have to ensure is unlocking
TAB: ACCORD is considered one of few successful organisations in
Gounden: Dedication and passion about the continent. We have deep belief that this continent can make it and we continuously reinforce that belief among ourselves. After 15 years, ACCORD is a highly developed institution. We have a very clear line of accountability in the organization which is important. People have to trust you if they have to put resources into your organization. We have created that and the second thing is to liberate minds. We allow our staff to come up with their own problems and solutions. We ensure that they are driven by a vision that can change this continent. The third thing is to have dedicated board of trustees.
TAB: ACCORD instituted an Africa Peace Award in
Gounden: I think basically what the award does is to recognize those who have committed themselves to peace, good governess and the protection for human rights. Look at a country like
TAB: Do you foresee permanent peace coming to
Gounden: I sincerely hope that there will be no need for ACCORD in
TAB: Sir, we thank you for your time.
Gounden: I thank you too. Your newspaper is doing a great job and it is vital that we work together to move
Career Spotlight: The Promising Hair Stylist
Seray Kakay is 32-years old and hails from
TAB: What really attracted you into this profession?
Seray: I got attracted to hair salon business because I wanted to satisfy the need of hair care for black people living in the city of
TAB: Who are your customers?
Seray: In the beginning, we had the vision of creating a comfortable salon for only black people, but over time it changed to multicultural salon. We have Asian and Caucasian customers and we can give professional hair to people of all background.
TAB: What challenges do you face as an immigrant woman in this profession?
Seray: It is sometimes difficult to get recognition from non-blacks. This is because we are stereotyped as people with no business discipline and poor management skills. People are surprised to see us running a professional business with high standard.
TAB: What other problems do you face as an ethnic hair stylist?
Seray: Not a major problem. In the business of managing hair salon, recruiting and retaining staff could be a challenge. But we manage to make our staff feel at home. On the other hand, building a loyal customer base among non-blacks takes time.
TAB: What are some of the qualities required to run this business?
Seray: Patience is the key word. You have to be prepared to deal with many customers with different behaviours. It is important to give equal treatment to all customers no matter the age or skin colour. Treat all customers with respect and expect the same in return.
TAB: What makes a successful ethnic hair stylist?
Seray: Know your customers’ needs and satisfy them. You can make a customer come back for your services if you take your time to know how to satisfy his or her needs. We work as a team to make sure our customers get the best services.
TAB: You just opened a second salon; business must be going good?
Seray: Business is not going bad. At our first location, we were running out of space with our customers queuing outside for a long time during weekends. Therefore, we decided to get another location to reduce pressure and meet the needs of our customers
TAB: From where do you get your motivation and inspiration?
Seray: I believe in myself with positive attitude that I can get better once I remain focus and committed. I am grateful to my husband Alfred Kanu. He has been a partner with all the support and inspiration. Oprah Winfrey is another angel who also inspires me. She says; “you can be better if you want to”. I get up in the morning and remind myself of that powerful statement. Sometimes we hear people complaining that
TAB: When not working, how do you spend your day?
Seray: Actually for the last couple of years, I have not had a typical day out of work. I work six days a week and use the weekend to do some shopping for the salons.
TAB: What is your advice for an aspiring ethnic entrepreneur?
Seray: Every aspiring entrepreneur must have self-confidence that he or she can make it despite the hurdles. One must be self-motivated before undertaking any endeavour. Things may not go your way, but remain committed and consistent to achieve your goals. All undertakings must be seen as a challenge and promise not to fail.
Africa through Western Eyes!
Guy Wauters (Herk-de-Stad Donk, Belgium) I think --- Nancy Peeters (Heerhugowaard) I have never been to ----- Esther Slangen-Nijkrake ( I think ---- R.C. Hoogenberk (Arhnem) I first think of --- Erik Kunst (Almere) I think --- Elli de Rijk (Leiderdorp) I think ---- Gina Gelderblom ( I think --- Angelique Medenblik ( I think is a big continent with many different countries, group of peoples, animals and religions. I also think it has good nature and seem to have more possibilities for the future. We have to work together with African countries. ---- J. Varkevisser ( --- R.J. Driesprong ( I think ---- Paul de Jonge (Heemstede) I think of
Guy Wauters (Herk-de-Stad Donk, Belgium)
Nancy Peeters (Heerhugowaard)
I have never been to
Esther Slangen-Nijkrake (
R.C. Hoogenberk (Arhnem)
I first think of
Erik Kunst (Almere)
Elli de Rijk (Leiderdorp)
Gina Gelderblom (
Angelique Medenblik (
I think is a big continent with many different countries, group of peoples, animals and religions. I also think it has good nature and seem to have more possibilities for the future. We have to work together with African countries.
J. Varkevisser (
R.J. Driesprong (
Paul de Jonge (Heemstede)
I think of
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By A. G. Kleijweg Note: This article first appeared in this column in May 2005. It is being repeated because of its relevance today. Please note that the much anticipated general pardon for asylum seekers is not here yet and might take few more months. Most of those affected are getting excited and believing everyone telling them what they want to hear. Warning: Be very careful and do not get cheated! For free information on the general pardon, you may check www.pardonnu.nl Who Is A Real Lawyer? It is my intention to inform the readers about possible sources of legal aid, their costs and some of my personal experiences with people who are not very satisfied with services received through legal aid.
Note: This article first appeared in this column in May 2005. It is being repeated because of its relevance today. Please note that the much anticipated general pardon for asylum seekers is not here yet and might take few more months. Most of those affected are getting excited and believing everyone telling them what they want to hear. Warning: Be very careful and do not get cheated! For free information on the general pardon, you may check www.pardonnu.nl
Who Is A Real Lawyer?
It is my intention to inform the readers about possible sources of legal aid, their costs and some of my personal experiences with people who are not very satisfied with services received through legal aid.
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