B.C. man accepts post as Kandahar governor
Published Thursday, December 18, 2008 3:34PM EST
A Canadian-Afghan academic, who will become the new governor of Kandahar province this weekend, says he wants to build bridges between cultures and improve the lives of regular Afghans.
Tooryalai Wesa - who fled his home in 1991 and settled in Coquitlam, B.C. - met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai for lunch on Thursday to discuss his challenging new job.
"Some of the Afghans are trying to come back because we want to help the country and because of the lack of the professional people" in the country, Wesa told CTV Newsnet Thursday in a telephone interview from Kabul, Afghanistan.
Born and raised in Kandahar, Wesa has extensive work experience in the province and feels that he can be an effective link between the local population and the international force of soldiers, diplomats and aid workers currently posted there.
"I feel that there's a huge demand for professional people there and these people need help," he said.
The posting has extra significance for Canada since most of the country's 2,750 troops are stationed in the volatile province.
"I want to be a bridge between these two homes that I have," said Wesa, adding that improving security and infrastructure in the region are very high on his list of priorities.
Wesa added that bolstering the agriculture industry by providing Kandaharis with fertilizers and pesticides is also key to establishing security in the area. The province has been overrun with Taliban attacks and is considered an insurgent stronghold.
Kandahar province has had two governors in the span of the past eight months.
Rahmatullah Rauf, who last held the post, has said he was pushed out because of a local power play. Rauf's predecessor was alleged to have participated in the torture of an insurgent prisoner.
Wesa is fluent in Pashto, Dari, Farsi, English, German and Arabic and has an impressive resume.
Not only does he have extensive experience in education and rural development, but he has also worked with Canadian soldiers as a trainer and is a founder of Kandahar University.
Born in 1950, Wesa studied agriculture at Kabul University in the 1970s.
A few years later, he attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and lived in Hungary and Switzerland before earning his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia.
His thesis at UBC centered on the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan and the "devastating impact" it had on the country's agricultural infrastructure, according to his biography, which is posted on the UBC website.
"My UBC classmates were worried about my country and wondered why I wanted to pursue my PhD thesis on the agricultural extension system there," he writes in the short bio.
However, after September 11, suddenly the world became fascinated with his home country, he writes.
"But I believe that without strong extension programs, there is very little hope for renewal. I believe in my people. I believe in my country. I thought that hopefully when I finished my PhD, I could go back and share my expertise."