By Yunus S. Saliu
As the world celebrated the first African to be appointed director general of UNESCO in 1974 on his centenary birthday celebration, the Director General (DG) of the Gambia National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) has used the occasion, too, to rejoice and panegyrise Amadou Mahtar Mbow on this notable day.
Amadou Mahtar Mbow was born in Senegal in 1920, educated in France and joined the United Nations 1953. He later became minister of Education in Senegal; in 1974 he became the first African appointed as head of UNESCO, one of the leading United Nations Organisations. A position he maintained till 1987 before he resigned.
Commenting on the former UNESCO director general’s centennial celebration and achievement, Hassoum Ceesay, DG of NCAC and learned Historian, said the 100 years’ anniversary of Mr. Mbowe is a cause for celebration for all Africans and the world in general because he made UNESCO to concentrate on development of culture and African history.
“It was during his time that UNESCO General History for Africa Project was started. This General History for Africa Project involved the research and publication of a comprehensive history of Africa as told by African historians themselves. His plan was to ensure that the history of Africa is studied from the viewpoint of Africans and 8 volumes were published between 1978 and 1990. These books are now a major source for African history,” DG Ceesay disclosed.
Among other important things that Amadou Mahtarr Mbowe did as head of UNESCO, NCAC DG explained, was that he created what is called the new information order as he believed that western press dominated spreading of news very much which was negative about Africa.
“So through UNESCO he helped many African countries to create their own news agencies including countries like The Gambia so that African countries will be able to tell their own stories in the media. He also promoted the installation of satellites to kick start satellite broadcasting in Africa,” he pointed out from his achievements.
According to DG Ceesay, “coming back to The Gambia, Mr. Mbowe supported The Gambia to establish a film unit in 1970s, which later became Gambia Television in 1995. He also helped The Gambia to establish a news agency called GAMNA (Gambia News Agency) in early 1980.”
And while he was still at UNESCO, he supported the establishment of radio broadcasting in The Gambia, “from 1979 every Gambian school had a radio set and this set was used to broadcast subjects like English, Mathematics and Science and it was a very successful project in country, with boosted education in The Gambia because in a school without enough teachers, the education broadcasting unit of the Radio Gambia was able to fill that gap.”
Therefore, “he is really a hero his 100 years anniversary, is a cause for joy and celebration for all practitioners in culture, arts, science and technology,”
Mr. Amadou Mahtarr Mbowe currently lives in Dakar, Senegal, where he was joined on Saturday by families, friends, organisations, UN system from across the world to celebrate his centennial birthday through different mediums which included physical presence and live on Skype, Zoom, Instagram among others.