Two oath-taking ceremonies and two presidents, but one agenda — to improve the relationship between Indians and the African community residing in Delhi-NCR. The recently-concluded elections, for the cabinet of the Delhi chapter of the Association of African Students in India (AASI), were marred in controversy as both Guinea-Bissau national Edmundo Ferreria Bari (26) and Congo national Merveil Ntambwe Ngongo (21) claim to be the newly-elected presidents of the association.
The internal strife in AASI resulted in two elections, two oath-taking ceremonies and two Facebook pages — and each group celebrating the “victory” online and offline. According to Adamu Mohammed G (35), chairman of the electoral committee of AASI, “The voting took place online on June 21, and 862 students voted from various African countries studying in Delhi-NCR. About 72 per cent voted in favour of Congo boy Merveil”.
The result of the online election — which happened after months of campaigning across campuses in Delhi-NCR — was announced on June 22, and the oath-taking ceremony took place on June 24 at Sharda University in Greater Noida, where Merveil is finishing his Bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Regarding the two presidents for one post, Adamu, a Ph.D. student, said, “Edmundo did not file the nomination form and did not accept the constitution of AASI…we wanted all students to vote while the other group did not want that…he is not the president”.
On the other hand, Edmundo, who just completed his Bachelors in Political Science from Noida International University, said, “The constitution of AASI does not mention online elections…elections took place on June 25 at the Ethiopian Cultural Centre, where 60-70 students, who represented 21 African countries, voted…I received 73 per cent votes.”
Regardless of the tussle for power, both Merveil and Edmundo have a common aim — to open up a conversation between Indians and the African community through food, music, seminars and sports. Edmundo, who claims to be one of the 10 students from Guinea-Bissau in India, said, “In my country, there are thousands of Indians, but in India, there are only 10 of us from Guinea-Bissau…we are here to study, not fight. I have been laughed at and called names in malls and on roads. I don’t want other students to undergo that…I want to sensitise both communities so we respect each other and live peacefully”.
Merveil resonated his rival’s sentiments and said, “We have to break the stereotype, we are not lesser than other human beings…there is evidence of everyday racism here and the only way to broker peace is through interaction between the two communities.”