BETWEEN UTOPIA AND CONCRETENESS – The dream to eradicate poverty in Africa

All that belongs to a spiritual dimension, here in the western world, seems to be vanished; anyway, while travelling, meeting with poverty, you can rediscover ways of life based on more authentic values.

There are many ways to live a travel: to comply with the wish to know people and places, to know oneself better, one’s own limits and courage, to write reportages, to make business. Gianni Melilla, activist, trade unionist, politician and Member of Parliament, current Secretary to Presidency of Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, relying upon his memory lane, in the book entitled In Africa. Esperienze di Cooperazione Internazionale [1] tells the human and political adventure he lived in the vast african continent at every latitude: Morocco, Senegal, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Camerun, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania, South Africa. He saw with his own eyes the tragedy of the ethnic wars between Hutu and Tutsi and, on the other hand, the victory of the anti-apartheid movement led by Nelson Mandela.

In the book, which is both a journey reportage and an essay, the author shows a great sensibility in understanding the reasons of the various actors of the social and political reality described. As a politician, his utopic dream is to eradicate inequality and absolute poverty, but he knows it can be achieved only step by step and, on the ground, he witnesses the efforts made to grant people, mainly women and children, dignity and rights, beginning from education and health care “If you educate a male kid, you educate a man, if you educate a woman, you educate a nation”.

In the description of the African landscapes, Gianni Melilla catches the magic of colours, atmospheres, sounds and silences. In his heartfelt foreword to the text, Italian politician and journalist Walter Veltroni, who has often travelled across Africa, quotes a passage that well visualizes the enchantment of the African ambiences “They give us baskets full of fruits,we drink beer of sorghum with a straw which we exchange as a token of friendship. Around us everybody is dancing and the drummers give life to an extraordinary show. Soon after six in the evening the feast ends and, with the overhanging night, everybody goes back to his own village. There is not public lighting and, without light pollution, the nights at the equator are unique”.

Inside this landscape and under this sky, a sore humanity lives with poor food and education, oppressed by deseases, violated by endemic wars and by corrupted systems, supported by western powers and China, in which weapons are more valuable than health care and education and where human life is worthless. Anyway, the story told by the author deals with hope too. It can be found in the work of many Italians, religious an laic, who have dedicated their life, for decades, to help those peoples more exposed to wars, deseases, ignorance and famine. These populations, however, are ready to free themselves, reacting with enthusiasm and pride to adversities. Nun Elena’s words, quoted by the author, give us a vivid picture of this reality when she tells that she was used to visit villages with a scale to weigh little children helping first the more undernourished ones. When she goes back to those villages, even after a long time, she can hear moms saying “She is your daughter because you saved her” pointing at a young girl.

With this intense and detailed report, Gianni Melilla gives us an unusual portrait of Africa, much different from the one you can find on glossy paper in the magazines promoting touristic destinations. It deals with authentic life of that unfortunate continent and the efforts that many Italians, among whom people from land of Abruzzo, are making to help.

Translation by Dott. Roberto Di Ludovico

[1] Gianni Melilla, In Africa. Esperienze di Cooperazione Internazionale – Edizioni Tracce e Fondazione Pescara Abruzzo

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