Saturday, August 11, 2007
For several generations, Congo, formerly known as Zaire, suffered under the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu encouraged corruption by his government favorites making himself and them very wealthy at the expense of the Congolese. When he was overthrown in 1997, Congo was once again thrown into upheaval with various factions vying for power. Back in 2002, the United Nations recruited teens, nominated by classroom teachers, to be trained for a special parliament aimed at serving the needs of children in Congo. Daily, children or parents appear before members of the teen parliament to be adjudicated in cases of neglect, abuse or abandonment. Sometimes a mother will complain that her husband is not providing support for her and their children, or a child will ask for help in correcting poor parenting skills. Invitations are sent to offending parties rather than subpoenas inasmuch as the teen-run institution does not carry the authority of law. It is an enforcer of moral law and adults are listening. Members of the parliament now nominate and vote for new members and need very little if any adult supervision as they deal with real-life cases. They are professional and serious about their work and adults are listening to them. I salute these teens and admire their dignity, good sense and the positive example they are setting for young and old. The U.N. got it RIGHT on this one!