Gertrude Mongela, Africa's Highest-Ranking Woman

Listen: <b>Web Extra:</b> Hear an Extended Version of Tony Cox's Conversation with Gertrude Mongela

Gertrude Mongela, pictured in 1995 at the United Nations in New York City.

Gertrude Mongela, pictured in 1995 at the United Nations in New York City. Rick Maiman/Corbis hide caption

toggle caption Rick Maiman/Corbis

This year, Gertrude Mongela became the highest-ranking elected woman in all of Africa when she was elected to the presidency of the African Union's new Pan African Parliament.

Mongela, a former U.N. Assistant Secretary General, is already facing strife in all parts of the continent. Perhaps of greatest concern this week: West Africa's Ivory Coast, where France, the United States and other Western nations are evacuating thousands of expatriates amidst violence against the French military and French civilians. Refugees by the thousands are streaming into neighboring countries.

And on the other side of the continent, there are the alleged acts of genocide perpetrated on black Africans by those of Arabic descent in the Darfur region of Sudan. The U.N. Security Council will hold a meeting in Kenya next week to discuss issues of importance across Africa and around the world.

Mongela, in Washington, D.C. in the last days of a brief U.S. visit, talks to NPR's Tony Cox about the challenges she faces in her new job.



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