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February 6, 2007
In a moving speech to nearly 35 people, Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika, the Zambian ambassador to the United States, worked to dispel misconceptions regarding the small African country on Jan. 23 in the Pine Lounge of the Jot Travis Student Union.
With help from the American Committee on Foreign Relations, the Northern Nevada International Center arranged Mbikusita-Lewanika's visit to the University of Nevada, Reno.
While Zambia, located near southern Africa, is a stable country, Mbikusita-Lewanika said it is often misconstrued as a country filled with turmoil. Mbikusita-Lewanika spoke about the inaccurate portrayal while informing the crowd about Zambia's political and economic growth.
Joaquin Roces, program coordinator for the Northern Nevada International Center, said he enjoyed hearing Mbikusita-Lewanika's talk.
"I think [her speech] was crucial in trying to dispel some of the imagery of Africa that we have in contemporary America," Roces said. "We often talk about Africa as one [country] and think if one country is in conflict, the others are in conflict."
Roces added that he was surprised to hear that Zambia has been free of conflict since its independence in 1964.
In addition to speaking on misconceptions about Zambia, Mbikusita-Lewanika also spoke about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and how it has impacted Zambia. Thanks to assistance from the United States and the Zambian government, infection rates are decreasing. However, Mbikusita-Lewanika told the audience that the responsibility did not lie solely on the government and that it required efforts from the citizens of Zambia as well.
Mbikusita-Lewanika knows the effects of the virus all too well. Mbikusita-Lewanika personally takes care of orphans of parents with HIV.
"Those of us that are over 45 are living miracles," Mbikusita-Lewanika said.
Roces said he was surprised to hear how HIV and AIDS affected the country.
"I think Americans are isolated [from AIDS]," Roces said. "The population [in the United States] is so huge that you could run into people who are not affected."
The two and a half hour event also included a brief question and answer section in which the audience interacted with the ambassador.