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DJimon Hounsou Passionate About Africa

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DJimon Hounsou Passionate About Africa

Djimon Hounsou

Foremost international actor, Djimon Hounsou was in Nigeria’s North East in December 2016 as an Oxfam celebrity ambassador. In this exclusive interview with FUNKE OSAE-BROWN, he shares his experience spending memorable moments at the IDP Camps.

When you are billed to interview an international star like DJimon Hounsou, you are sure to have some butterflies in your tummy. I have only seen him on the TV acting intelligent roles in films; that’s the closest I have seen him. However, my experience that warm Friday morning at the Blowfish Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos will leave a lasting impression on my mind.

His gait was not different as he walked up the stairway to take a seat at the table. He strides in exuding confidence; a pair of dark sunglasses covering his dark eyes. ‘Good morning’, he says stretching his hand for a handshake.

Born in West Africa, Republic of Benin, he moved to France at the age of 12 to better his education. From that point to the age of 22, he moved to California for the first-time because he wanted to be actor. That was what he wanted to do. He currently resides in California to pursue his dream in Hollywood.

Armed with his dream, Hounsou would later take Hollywood by storm to become one of the sought after black actors. “Anybody get into movie industry,” he tells me. “If you have any dream. The more you think about it, the more emotional you get, the more you attain to realize your dreams. I had a commercial agent and I was a model at a time.  In California, I had a commercial agent who makes things happened and that was how I made it to Hollywood.”

Djimon Hounsou As an ambassador of Oxfam, Hounsou has toured some war-torn countries in Africa and around the world to offer relief to victims. In December 2016, he visited the Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs) Camp in Nigeria’s North East to offer succour to victims of Boko Haram insurgency.

“For you to get appointed as ambassador,” he says of his job as an ambassador, “it has to do with your visibility as an actor.  As an Oxfam ambassador, my job is to go to areas affected by issues. To create awareness for the global community on what is taking place there.”

Hounsou’s visit to the Nigeria North East last December must have struck a chord in him. He went to Borno State where he witnessed many displaced families without food, shelter and other basic amenities.

“I was there to see people displaced out of their homes,” he says, the pains visible in his eyes, “their villages. Interestingly, some of them found shelter with the neighbouring community despite the fact that they are one of the poorest in the world. Without questions, they gave their homes to those displaced people; sharing their foods which they barely have enough for themselves.”

It was a shocking experience for him to see families, children, young people living from hand to mouth in deplorable conditions. “It was shocking, really,” he says as he struggles to hold back tears. “As humans, it’s our obligation to help and assist one another, we are to help one another evolve and it’s sad to say but also at same time it’s also unbelievable to see the warm heart of the people, the host community, share their little with the displaced people.”

Through Oxfam, Hounsou has programs put in place to assist the IDPs in Nigeria’s North-East. “We have plenty of programs but we have to look at what the government is doing and also, you have to look at what the Oxfam is doing underground in helping not only the displaced people but also the host community to give them a hand and to help the ones that are completely displaced. “

He explains Oxfam is always there to provide a lifesaving support to all the deprived ones as far as food, clean drinking water. “Things like clean water, food are sort of what they need for survival and they don’t even have that. We are also looking at how we could help communities recover, which is one of the things we hope to be doing next year. We would be doing a life-saving program for farmers where farmers are able to go back safely to their communities and making sure they have seeds and tools, access to water to get to start their farmland again. The plan for next year is for 8.5million people to receive very different types of support which will cost the international community 1 billion dollars. So, there is a huge program running out.”

He says Oxfam plans to roll out its support in the North East for as long as it is going to take.  “We are extending it beyond the North East into the Lake Chad region including Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Chad all those countries obviously. Oxfam is trying to help out on the issues at the moment.”

Hounsou’s trip to Nigeria’s North East is not his first experience with providing aids in Africa. And he plans to help create more awareness about the challenges facing the Africa continent. “It is not my first experience in Africa with something like that. Again, whether you see that here or Sudan or South Sudan and so many other regions that had had conflicts; I will keep raising awareness on some of these conflicts and the need for Africa to be self-sufficient to get rid of all these issues. I will continue raising voices and ensure that the other communities are aware of that.”

Djimon Hounsou Hounsou believes that some conflicts in Africa can be resolved if the economic problems are properly tackled. For him, poverty is the underlying factor of most conflicts on the continent.

“I am not a scientist, I am not a genie to just clap my hands and make things change. It is inevitable that economic development is important in most places I have been in Africa. I think it is inevitable when you see the state of those areas. You know, it is due to poverty. It is due to lack of economic development, you obviously can tell that’s an indication for lot of bad things to happen.

“The goal of Oxfam is they always go directly to the people. In Oxfam, we try to work with different local partners in all parts of the world. In the North East of Nigeria, we are working with SAMA in terms of coordination, we work with other National NGO organisations to help deliver food.”

Hounsou’s visit to the North East last December was is first time in Nigeria. He has this to say about Nigeria: “Officially, yes, it is my first time. What a beautiful country, what a vibrant country. It has rich culture. It’s beautiful.”



Cover Image: Collider.com


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