Manchester University
Oak Leaves

September 23, 2016

Assefa Interns at African Union; Acquaints Self with Ambassadors

Maddie Jo Shultz

Over the summer, MU junior Leilte Assefa traveled from Indiana to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to work as an intern at the African Union (AU).

Assefa interned at the AU for two months. She first worked at a branch called the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA), where she remained for two weeks and received her orientation. During her time there, she did not work on projects focused solely on her chosen field of study. “They were focused more on East African terrorist attacks,” Assefa says about CISSA. “And I was more into the law.” She explains that she was more interested in how the AU makes laws and how the organization deals with conflict.

After the first two weeks, Assefa moved to the Peace and Security Council and worked under its commissioner, Ismail Chergui. “We had to attend meetings for him and take notes and write speeches,” Assefa says. “We were more like a connection for him.” Eighty-five percent of the African Union is funded by the western world, so a primary job for interns is to make a lot of connections and try to get funds; however, Assefa says that the fundraising was her least favorite part of the internship. “I wasn’t very happy at first,” she admits. “I was very young and nobody took me seriously, so I had to stand up for myself. I had to make sure people knew what I was saying was important. I had to force myself to be heard. Then I showed them what I could do.”

In fact, Assefa was fortunate to obtain the internship at such a young age. “It’s very hard to get to work at the African Union,” she says, “especially if you don’t have your Bachelor’s or Master’s yet.” She recommends the internship to other students; and, although it was a volunteer project, Assefa says that it looks great on a résumé. “Working at the African Union really opens your eyes,” she said. “Just because I am African doesn’t mean I know a lot about other African countries. I learned a lot.” Assefa described, for example, how colonization has shaped the way in which Africa is divided into different countries, and how the western world has influenced both the African people and their culture.

Assefa met many ambassadors in Addis Ababa, and even attended a meeting when the president of South Korea visited the AU. Her favorite aspect of the internship was the work experience. “It opened up my eyes to how it would feel to work as a diplomat,” she says, “and what it’s going to be like to actually work in my field.” Assefa is studying political science with an international studies minor, and she plans to study international law after she graduates. Her goal is to work at the ICJ, the International Court of Justice, and after law school she hopes to also become a designer with her own fashion line.