The Carter Center is tracking mining contracts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in an effort to prevent secret deals by government and company officials to take precious minerals out of the country “for practically nothing” and with little benefit to the workers, according to former President Jimmy Carter.
The center also is training Congolese police officers in human rights issues and practices, Mr. Carter said during an opening reception at the Jimmy Carter President Library and Museum of the “Kongo Across the Waters” exhibition May 15.
And he commented on the abuse Congolese women have endured from roving militias in the eastern Congo. His recently published book, his 28th, is titled “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.”
The book details what the former president describes as “the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge of our time – the discrimination and abuse of women and girls.”
He spoke positively of the Carter Center’s involvement with the Catholic Church to monitor election returns there, having mobilized 6,300 domestic observers with the support of the Belgian government.
The center observed elections in 2006 and 2011, and has published detailed reports about specific electoral abuses.
Mr. Carter confirmed that the center has plans to continue monitoring the country’s elections in the future. The DRC is to hold a presidential election in 2016.
In addition, he referred to the center’s “Human Rights House” in Kinshasa, the DRC’s capital.
Begun in 2007 the facility is staffed primarily by Congolese nationals and provides training and technical support to more than 70 non-governmental organizations dealing with conflict resolution and other initiatives.
Special projects include the investigation of mining contracts and the training of police officers.
The “Kongo Across the Waters” exhibition includes more than 100 works of art from the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, and is the centerpiece of the Africa Atlanta 2014 initiative.
Mr. Carter credited Andrew Young with arousing his interest in the African continent after he appointed him to represent the United States at the United Nations.
He pointed pridefully to his administration’s efforts to end apartheid in South Africa and to its support of the transition of Rhodesia from an unrecognized state under a conservative white minority government into the Republic of Zimbabwe.
Other speakers at the reception included G.P. “Bud” Peterson, president of the Georgia Institute of Technology; Johan Verbeke, ambassador of Belgium to the U.S., Alexander Cummings, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of the Coca-Cola Co.; Guido Gryseels, director of the Royal Museum and Kwanza Hall, Atlanta City Councilman representing District 2.
Jacqueline Royster, dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Tech served at the event as the master of ceremonies.
Dr. Royster has co-chaired the 2014 initiative with Genevieve Verbeek, consul general of Belgium in Atlanta, and Kasim Reed, Atlanta’s mayor.
Under Dr. Royster’s guidance, the initiative has collected more than 50 partners supporting a wide array of educational, cultural and business events interspersed throughout the year.
Africa Atlanta 2014’s official mission is to highlight Atlanta as a focal point for “reinventing the cultural and economic bonds among Africa, Europe and the Americas.”
Dr. Peterson announced that Beatrice Mtetwa, a human rights attorney from Zimbabwe, has been named the recipient of the 2014 Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage.
Ms. Mtetwa has championed civil activists and local and international journalists who have been persecuted over the past 20 years by Zimbabwe’s government.
The prize recognizes individuals who, by standing up for clear moral principles in the social arena, have positively affected public discourse of their own careers, livelihoods and even their lives.
“Ms. Mtetwa has endured a sometimes painful journey to achieve the larger purpose of freedom and justice for all,” Dr. Peterson said.
Prior recipients include former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia; William Foege, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and John Lewis, the U.S. Representative from Georgia’s 5th district. The prize comes with a $100,000 stipend.
Mr. Verbeke, Belgium ambassador to the U.S., acknowledged his government’s involvement with the Carter Center on behalf of its work in the DRC and traced the beginning of African and European engagement on the North American continent to 1513.
Juan Garrido, a free black African, joined the Spanish explorers in present day Florida that year, symbolic of the contribution of Africans as well as Europeans and native Americans to the future of U.S. culture, he said.
The Coca-Cola executive, Mr. Cummings, also paid tribute to the “Kongo Across the Waters” exhibition for raising awareness of African heritage, culture and the “inward experience” expressed by the artists in their work.
Originally from Liberia, he said his native country had experienced many hardships in recent years, but nevertheless as with the rest of the continent he felt closer “to its soaring future than its struggled past.”
Earlier in the day, Coke hosted an “Africa Day” celebration, first instituted in 2009 by the African Diaspora Network to commemorate the founding of the Organization of African Unity in 1963, which became in 2002 the African Union.
Dr. Gryseels said that the closing of the Royal Museum for three years enabled it to consider traveling exhibitions and altered its focus from a regional one centered on Africa to a more global perspective including the African diaspora.
The exhibition is to be at the Carter museum until Sept. 21 and then will travel to Princeton, N.J., where it will be on display at the Princeton University Art Museum from Oct. 25-Jan 25, 2015. Its final destination in the U.S. is to be at the New Orleans Museum of Art from Feb. 27-May 25, 2015.
Mr. Hall presented Dr. Royster with a proclamation on behalf of the Atlanta City Council for her efforts on behalf of the exhibition.
In turn Dr. Royster encouraged the more than 100 attendees at the reception to view the exhibition. She also thanked Claire McLeveighn and the Atlanta Global Quartet for their performance at the reception of works by the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, the African American composer William Grant Still and the Mexican composer Arturo Marquez.