Arriving in Tbilisi, Georgia, for the Leadership Network for Change reunion in April 2023, I didn’t know what was waiting for me. It turned out that the following few days were, with no doubt, some of the most exciting moments of my life!
In my home country of Tanzania, very few people know about Georgia; however, Georgia is a country you will find impossible to forget. The most memorable things were the warmth and hospitality of Georgians, breathtaking nature, the captivating mixture of old and new architecture in the capital Tbilisi, and the adventure of bouncing into traditional dances, customs, cuisine, and places I had never known even existed.
While in Georgia, I attended sessions and lectures which built on the foundations of what I had learned during CDDRL’s Summer Fellows Program in 2022, from theories to learning by seeing the contemporary development and challenges of democracy. I feel lucky to have been able to attend the sessions and discussions about democracy and to learn from professors and the philosophers of our time. I wish many would have an opportunity like this.
I remember that on our way to Kazbegi, we stopped at a place called the Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument. The Russia–Georgia Friendship Monument was built in the Soviet era to symbolize the friendship between the two nations. However, it has stirred controversy among Georgians. While some view it as a painful reminder of conflicts between Russia and Georgia, criticisms emerge regarding the painting inside the wall, accused of presenting a biased narrative, and its location along the Georgian Military Highway is seen by some as a reminder of unresolved conflicts. After learning the story behind the Monument, I understand the hesitation on the Georgian side. I also realized that unless people and countries share common values, the sustainability and the meaning of symbolic structures like the Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument will forever remain fiction.
Moreover, I had an opportunity to chat with other LNC participants from other parts of the world. The conversations were so insightful. Before coming to Georgia, I had a few questions related to democratic principles and values. The conversations I had with my peers during this program were so rich, and I was able to address some of these questions. Imagine!! Meeting peers with many years of experience in promoting democracy from almost all over the world — it was epic. I am pleased that I am more informed, and I am more confident that, today, I can give comparative knowledge when it comes to governance issues to aid my work. Being part of the LNC program kept me on track.
All in all, I wish to say მადლობა საქართველოს, სტენფორდის CDDRL-ს და ფიშერების ოჯახს (Georgian for "thank you to Georgia, Stanford CDDRL, and the Fisher Family").