Fenland councillor looks back at “enlightening” and “emotional” trip to Namibia for peer review project

“AN ENLIGHTENING, emotional, and a great learning experience” was how a Fenland councillor described a local government trip to Namibia.

Councillor Martin Curtis - a member of Fenland District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council - went to Africa as part of a three-man team to give help and advice to government officials there.

The UK team that carried out the ‘peer review’ project in Otjiwarongo met with the Secretary General of the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa, the Chief Executive of Dakar, Senegal, and a councillor from Burundi.

Cllr Curtis said: “Namibia is a beautiful country; it was really surreal driving through the countryside marvelling at mile after mile of scrubland, spotting warthogs and baboons on the route.

“The emotional part was seeing the poverty in parts of Otjiwarongo and the work being done to overcome it, as well as children laughing and smiling their way through life despite their circumstances.

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“I should stress that although the level of poverty was clear, we heard time and again that Otjiwarongo was managing this in better ways than many other areas.

“What I saw on the peer review was a team of councillors and officers of many backgrounds and differing political ideologies absolutely committed to solving the problems of the most vulnerable in their society.

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“If we could reach that sort of consensus in the UK, even in the current financial climate, we have sufficient resource to make a real difference.

“I hope we gave Otjiwarongo enough of a sense of how they could move their issues forwards in this respect and, if we played only a small part in doing so, the trip will have been worthwhile.”

• On a lighter note, Arsenal fan Cllr Curtis was thrilled to discover that Otjiwarongo’s football team is called The Mighty Gunners - so he bought himself a shirt!

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