AUB alumni elected Afghanistan’s new president and first lady

AUB alumnus Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was officially elected president of Afghanistan on Sunday, September 21. His wife, Rula Fouad Saade, now the first lady of Afghanistan, is also an AUB alumna.

In response to the success of Ghani’s campaign, AUB President Peter Dorman stated, “In a rapidly changing world that faces complex challenges, the hope remains that the most qualified leaders thrive to best serve their countries and their peoples. We offer our alumnus Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and the people of Afghanistan our best wishes for a new era of peace and prosperity.”

The Alumni Relations office expressed its congratulations by saying, “We are proud of Dr. Ghani’s accomplishments, his success indicates the impact of AUB education in the region.”

Alumni Relations also informed Outlook that the current president of the Maldives, Abdulla Yameen, is also an AUB alumnus as are many prominent individuals in governments throughout the world.

Ghani completed his BA in political studies at AUB in 1973 and later proceeded to obtain his MA at AUB as well in 1977. His wife completed her MA in political studies at AUB in 1974, and the couple met on campus while they were both students.

According to Alumni Relations, Ghani remains very close to AUB and his last visit to campus was two years ago when he gave the keynote address at the alumni reunion event. He and his wife also spend their summers in Lebanon, as she is Lebanese.

After AUB, Ghani went on to complete a doctorate at Columbia University and to work for 15 years at the World Bank. From 2002 to 2004, Ghani served as the finance minister of Afghanistan in Hamid Karzai’s government, leading the country’s attempted economic recovery after the collapse of the Taliban government.

The new first lady has been lauded for her involvement in her husband’s campaign. On March 8 of this year she delivered a short speech at a campaign event in Kabul bringing praise from women’s rights activists who encouraged other potential first ladies to follow suit.

Ghani also ran for president in 2009 but only managed to garner 2.9 percent of the vote. His victory was therefore considered a long shot prior to his campaign this year. In the end, however, he took 55.7 percent of the vote in a runoff election.

The runoff took place on June 14, but due to the tumultuous political situation in Afghanistan, much discussion and debate ensued regarding power sharing between Ghani and his main opponent Abdullah Abdullah. On Sunday, September 21 the two politicians agreed on the formation of a “unity government” in which Abdullah will serve as a chief executive.

Addressing supporters on Monday following the deal, Ghani stated, “It is a big victory for the Afghan nation that for the first time in our bright history, power is transferred from one elected president to another president based on the nation’s votes.”

When asked for their perspective about a fellow AUBite being elected to such a prominent position, students gave varying responses.

“I actually just heard of it. Good for him!” stated Muhammad Hariri, a junior. “Hopefully he’ll do a good job.”

Freshman Kevin Chahwan said, “That’s amazing!…I’m just really proud of the university.”

Giving words of advice, graduate student Rand Moukadoum El Zein said, “I hope he uses the morals he learned at AUB to help Afghanistan become a better country.”

With the particular challenges of an often divided nation and the additional threat of the Taliban’s condemnation of the recent unity deal, Ghani definitely faces serious challenges as he takes his seat at the head of the Afghan government. Hopefully, the liberal arts education foundation he received at AUB will continue to benefit him as he confronts each new challenge.

Jason Lemon
News Editor

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