As I do whenever arrive newly anywhere, I first start by making an observation and in the process asking questions. I did the same when I arrived at NED. I took time to observe and start asking questions. Hence I did not immediately focus on my research topics. I first spent some time observing the behaviors of a few permanent staff that I could go close or speak with them. Secondly, I focused at understanding how NED functions, especially that, prior to coming to NED, I had heard a lot of stories about its capacities and influences. The aforementioned observations were necessary because, as a black African and a journalist, even though I love and respect the United States and the entire western democracies, I am still suspicious of westerners, their governments and all institutions that they are or may be sponsoring. My suspicious are based on the fact that the African continent and its people have throughout history been exploited and abused by the same western governments and institutions that, they support financially or materially. Even though the United States and most liberal democracies have strong institutions and strong independent media and well organized civil society organisations, which would have been enough to check the excesses of their governments, I have discovered sadly that, those hurdles/checks are not elevated or solid enough. This is so because the rise to power of people such as Donald John Trump in US or Viktor Orban in Hungary with the propensity of attacking or defying democratic institutions. And in defying or attacking democratic institutions, cracks have appeared on the walls of those institutions and through them, most western governments and their sponsored institutions have carried out actions which are at variance with what they most often promote: liberal democracy. Fortunately for me, I discovered that, NED might be sponsored by US government and institutions, it was genuine in its support for democracy and free speech around the world.
Questions & contradictions
Although western liberal democracies do champion the promotion of good governance or liberal democracy around the world, there are nonetheless questions or doubts about their sincerity in most cases of regimes and causes that they do on occasions support. For how can liberal democracies from the US to Australia possibly conciliate their promotion of democracy, respect for human rights and free speech, while they have as strategic friends, dictatorial regimes such as Saudi Arabia and many others? How can they claim to fight against corruption while at the same time still allowing most African leaders to steal wealth from their respective countries and secure them in western banks? Why will western governments supported organisations, such as the UN, UNDP sponsor associations and organisation promoted by wives and children or family members of African despots? The above questions are where my suspicions of western governments and institutions stands and equally the enigma and contradictions that they willfully or not, entertained. Hence, some African journalists and prodemocracy activists are shocked and disgust whenever they discover that, most dictatorial regimes in Africa do survive or generate their legitimacy from the same western governments that claims to be against dictatorship.