DALLAS TWP. — While the core message of two men from western Africa — combating terrorism starts by providing opportunity to the young — seemed to resonate with Misericordia students attending a special lecture Monday, Marina Painter had a follow-up when she got a chance to sit down with the guest lecturers.
What do the people in their country think of Americans and the French trying to help them?
Abdoul Karim Ouattara, an adviser to a reconciliation commission in Ivory Coast, smiled and replied in French, with visiting professor Marguerite Roy translating.
“They like the Americans,” Roy said. “They know what their intentions are. The French …” Ouattara paused, uttered something, and laughed. Roy motioned with her hand in a zigzag pattern. “They don’t always know the French people’s intentions.”
A Misericordia graduate who built a diplomatic career that included stints as a political adviser for United Nations efforts in parts of Afghanistan, Roy has returned to the university “for at least 18 months,” hoping to both “give back” some service to the school and “to take a little break” from a job that often put her in countries in crisis.
Roy helped bring the two guest lecturers to Misericordia: Ouattara, adviser to the President, Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up to restore unity in Ivory Coast, and the Rev. Jean-Claude Atusameso, executive director of the Jatukik Providence Foundation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The foundation is trying to find investors who will provide micro-loans to entrepreneurs in Africa. The pair lectured in the Global Politics Class of assistant professor Christopher Stevens.
The visitors focused on the need to work with young people — those under 35 — in combating terrorism.
“We are trying to bring opportunity to the youth,” Atusameso said after the lecture. “Peace is related to opportunity.”
Speaking through Roy, Ouattara said it is easier to block terrorism in smaller nations because the families are tight and hold strong sway on the children.
“Terrorists don’t appear overnight, there is psychological and military training.”
Terrorists recruit more easily in big cities like Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, where an attack at a mall made international headlines last year, because “there are more people, so the youth have fewer opportunities. With fewer opportunities, they get more frustrated, and when they get frustrated they get swept into lost causes,” Roy translated. “That’s what he calls terrorism,” she added.
Asked her reaction to the lecture, Painter said, “I really enjoyed it. It’s good to hear it from their side, from people in those countries.”
Senior Ann Kaufman agreed. In fact, she’s going to graduate school in political science, hoping to land work in Africa studying terrorism.
“You should go to Mali,” Ouattara said, referring to a large nation north of Ivory Coast. He said arms are flowing from Libya through Mali to terrorist groups in the area.