DeKalb Commissioners Present Honorary DeKalb Citizen Award to Mandela Washington Fellows

Dekalb County

On Tuesday, Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson and the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners’ Chief of Staff, Kwasi Obeng, presented a Honorary Citizen Award to the 2022 Mandela Washington Fellows, Ruth Arreygang Abunaw Besong (Cameroon) and Menfret Melk (Namibia). 

The Mandela Washington Fellowship was founded by President Barack Obama and is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities and local community engagement. Created in 2010, YALI supports young Africans as they spur economic growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa. Since 2014, the U.S. Department of State has supported nearly 5,100 Mandela Washington Fellows from across Sub-Saharan Africa to develop their leadership skills and foster connections and collaboration with U.S. professionals.

The Honorary DeKalb County Citizen Award was presented to Ruth and Menfret for their service to DeKalb during their Professional Development Experience and for their commitment to improve the quality of life in their respective countries.

“It has been a true pleasure to have both Ruth and Menfret join us in DeKalb County over these past four weeks to learn about the work that we do to serve our citizens,” said Commissioner Davis Johnson. 

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by International Research & Exchanges Board. 

“Hosting the Mandela Washington Fellows has been a great opportunity to highlight the great work that the Board of Commissioners is doing to equitably meet the needs of all its residents,” Commissioner Davis Johnson said. “In bestowing honorable citizenship, we hope to continue engaging and partnering our friends in Africa and I hope that our continued partnership will further extend the goodwill we have shared over the past month.”
For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit and join the conversation at #YALI2022.