Posted in Book Reviews, My Heroines

Book Review: Choosing the Hero by K. Riva Levinson


Choosing the Hero by  Riva Levinson

Choosing the Hero

Although I humbly think this beautiful and profound memoir by Riva is slightly overdue, I commend her dedication, despite her hectic schedule, to finish it and share it with the world.

Indeed, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the other main protagonist in this memoir, in her soulful Foreword, encourages us all to read Choosing the Hero: “It tells my story from the special perspective of a woman who knows me well and was with me at every stage of the journey – a woman to whom I will always be grateful.” I know of no other more befitting endorsement of such a work. The President actually mentioned in that same foreword that Riva even believed in her much more than some of her closer entourage at one point – in short, Riva never gave up on her although she tried and failed twice before making it to the Liberian Presidency in 2005, amidst all odds and breaking the ‘tremendous taboo’ that no woman could be President in Africa.

So how did these two brilliant, brave, strong headed, strong willed, dynamic, dedicated, determined, and above all, disciplined women from worlds apart, cross paths? Riva was from the US, with her multidimensional background, upbringing, and career, while Ellen was from far off poor, shady, gloomy and poverty cum conflict stricken tiny Liberia in Africa. I have come to conclude that their personalities had a ‘spiritual magnetism’ and caused them to chose each other.

Riva is largely convinced she chooses Ellen Johnson Sirleaf because she saw in her a Hero. In her own words, thought out way back in 1996 when she first met Ellen Johnson in her office at the UN: “… a new thought that is just beginning to take root and grow: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will make history. She will change the world. I don’t know how she will do it, or what it will entail. But I know that I want to help her. I want to come along on that journey. I want to work for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.” I think that is where the choosing started. Eventually when she had the opportunity to be interviewed by Ellen Johnson, she was determined that that not even her five months old pregnancy was going to stand in her way. Riva reflects rightly at that point that she’s facing yet again the primary tension to her job: “needing to work for the clients who pay, while being drawn to the clients who inspire.” She knew Mrs Sirleaf had limited resources and relied on her personal savings with dignity and integrity, but that was what made her Hero more appealing.

And so it came to be that Riva didn’t only help her Hero, by working and supporting Ellen Johnson Sirleaf all the way through defeats, exiles, and eventual victory ten years later, but she actually got into some serious politicking and lobbying on Capitol Hill, most of it pro bono. Riva narrates this challenging but soulful journey, the different rejections and humiliations she faced in working with and for her Hero, recalling a time when she was told outright: “it’s a traditional society, a woman can never be president.”

One will read with hints of irony how the warlord Taylor, who had several times threatened grandmother Ellen’s life, ended up himself depending on her executive decision as president if he should be tried by the Special Court for the Sierra Leone. Another amusing fact in her memoir is the ‘play press’; both regional and international, who in the beginning were definitely not having anything to do with covering Ellen and her campaign. Once she was declared the victor over “King Leah” their proclaimed ‘winner’, they were in Monrovia overnight pleading for a spot with Madam President.

Riva’s memoir is captivating and hard to put down. Brilliantly narrated with some hints of her soulful family dynamics, her impressive and resourceful Oma, all the way through to Bagdad, Libya, and Somalia, where some of her most dangerous assignments were undertaken.

I commend Riva above all for making her memoir a fluent, easy, and interesting read. I equally appreciate that her opening scene is in Norway, where her Hero and two other dynamic and exemplary women laureates of that year’s Nobel Peace Price are honoured with their awards.

Indeed, Riva made the right choice in choosing her Hero. She is now a part and parcel of one of those ‘traditional African families’, and so gets her VIP pass to the ground breaking inauguration of President Sirleaf in 2006 and much more. Riva has also witnessed tremendous personal and professional developments and she now thinks her Hero is also her new Oma.

In light of all the above, I can only honestly and modestly conclude my review by adding my own tiny call to that of our very first African Female President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, that this book should be read by all and sundry – you will not regret it.

About the Author:

Riva Levinson
UNITED STATES – MAY 13: Riva Levinson, president and CEO of KRL International, is interviewed by CQ Roll Call in her Washington office, May 13, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

K. Riva Levinson is the founder, President and CEO of KRL International LLC. Over the past 25 years, Ms. Levinson has earned a reputation as sought-after strategist managing international policy issues.

A front-page profile in The Hill, a prominent Washington newspaper, said  Riva Levinson “…has been in trickier spots and taken up more daunting causes than all but a few other lobbyists in town.” A recent Financial Times article described Ms. Levinson’s reputation in advocacy as “formidable.”

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: This Child Will be Great by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf


Picture below is on one of her release from prison in her struggle era
Picture below is on one of her release from prison in her struggle era

My second book review on this blog, is as powerful as it captivating. When I wrote a post about Mama Ellen (as she is fondly called), that she was my heroine and idol, I had not even read this book. That title is a ‘prophecy’ made by an old man who visited the baby Ellen at birth. Great indeed she today is right? She will forever be remembered not only for her record breaking and holding especially in Africa, but also for her famous statement. She said:

“All girls know that they can be anything now. That transformation is to me one of the most satisfying things.” Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

I had the privilege to meet, talk to briefly and take a snap shot of Mama Ellen in November 2013 when I was sent on a near ‘mission impossible’ to get Mama to come and deliver the keynote address

Delivering her Keynote address at the WIP inaugural summit in 2013
Delivering her Keynote address at the WIP inaugural summit in 2013

at our inaugural summit. I succeeded, she came, delivered the keynote and told me she encouraged young dynamic women like me.

I took this shot because none of her guards would take a photo of us
I took this shot because none of her guards would take a photo of us

Synopsis of the Book

When I started reading that book, the very first page made me conclude, and rightly so as I eventually read, that most of it was written by Mama Ellen herself. I also noticed that it was published in 2009, that is three years into her first term as president and it meant that she was putting herself out there knowing fully well the ‘damage’ the book could cost her plans for a second term.

I say she took chances because she is as personal in several instances as she is candid. Who talks about her marriage to an abusive man when she was only 17 years old? Mama does. Who talks about her having four boys by 23 years old? Mama again. Who talks about knowing the pain of leaving your children behind at such tender ages (the last barely 1 year old) to go further your life? Of course only mama can do that. And of being unfaithful in marriage? Read that book for yourselves!

Yes, even on the political narration of her struggle, she is as candid. She tells how referring to the Doe regime in a speech as a bunch of ‘idiots’, landed her into serious trouble, earned her some jail time in one of those nocturnal confines (She actually says it did her some good, she rested and got to live first hand the life of an inmate), and above all, almost led to her being raped or killed. In each of those several narratives, she was saved she believes, by her mother’s fervent prayers and some ‘angel’ in the body of one of the guards.

Mama Ellen also tells of her campaigns to the Executive Mansion. The first time in 1997 was against the then all powerful Charles Taylor, and she says barely anybody supported her ‘folly’. Of course, she lost ‘woefully’ as she puts it, but she knows Taylor won by all ‘scrupulous’ means possible.  Her inauguration day on that famous January 2006 is the best day of her life and the speech she made on that day, is fortunately annexed to that book.

My Rating

I normally as in a previous book review, write about the author. But what can I write about Mama Ellen? Who doesn’t know her? I mean, for fear of not missing one of her stars, I will urge you to Google her and her book. Frankly, anything less than a five star will be lying to my own self.

I salute her, she is my icon, idol, heroine and you name it. I mean I was once asked who is the one person I will give my all to have dinner with, of course Mama I said.  She even works in her cabinet with some former warlords and fighting factions and guess, Mr Taylor’s ex wife is a Senator in their Parliament. I have also met her and heard her talk well of Mama.

Dear gentle readers and followers, this is my modest tribute to this great woman and writer and I look forward to others too. And you, what’s your take on this? As for me, I’ve got to ask my mama if some one said anything when I was born 🙂

Posted in Media Gallery

Pictures in my gallery from a memorable week!


President of the Arab Parliament
President of the Arab Parliament

H.E Ahmed Mohammed Rashid Al Shamsi Jarwan being interviewed His interview the next day

Vice speaker of the UAE ParliamentDr. Amal Abdullah Juma Al Qubais Deputy Speaker of the UAE Parliament

Found myself in the Interpretation booth and it saved a working group.In the translation booth

Hon Pnina, Deputy speaker of the Knesset and the first blcack Jew to hold the post  and IWith the vice speaker of the Knesset

Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma -  First female AU Commission chairperson  and I

My Vice President being interviewedThe VP of the Cameroon National Assembly being interviewed

Rwandan Ambassador, The Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Hon. Mukabalisa and co.Tje Rwandan speaker of parliament, the Ambassador to Brussels and his wife.

With the Cameroonian delegationWith the Cameroonian delegation

Getting words of widom from Silvan's mother.With Silvana’s mother

Silvana and her girls

The WIP winning team

A tired but elated me at the Gala!

My boss, MEP Silvana Koch Mehrin and family
My boss, MEP Silvana Koch Mehrin and family

My boss+family and my happy self!

The Cameroonian delegation and I at their hotel!

H.E Portia Simpson MillerWith Portia Simpson Miller

H.E and my humble and happy self!

H.E Ellen Johnson Sirleaf!Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the WIP Summit

H.E Ellen Johnson at the Eu.dev days! These pictures capture a hectic but wonderful week in my life both professionally and  emotionally, I was ‘spoilt’!