The Africa Regional Conference Marking the 40th Anniversary of Peace Studies in Bradford

Professor Kenneth Omeje is a JEFCAS Visiting Senior Research Fellow in Peace Studies, at the University of Bradford. He is the author of War to Peace Transition: Conflict Intervention and Peacebuilding in Liberia (2009), and is a Professor of International Relations at the United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya.

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The African regional conference was part of a series of anniversary events organised by the University of Bradford (UoB) to celebrate 40 years of global education for peace and hosted by Peace Studies Department on the 14th of November 2014, at Serena Hotel in Kampala, Uganda.  Focused on the theme, “Why War? Africa,” the conference was organised in collaboration with some of UoB’s John and Elnora Ferguson Centre for African Studies’ (JEFCAS) longstanding strategic partner institutions in Uganda namely: Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), in Kampala; Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Makerere University, Kampala and Mbarara University of Science and Technology.

The conference goal was to bring together academics, political leaders, policy practitioners and alumni to share ideas on how to understand and end the scourge of wars in Africa. Consequently, the conference was further conceived to help develop practical solutions to build peace and reconcile bitterly divided communities in Africa. The conference research papers will result in a major edited reader on the conference theme, to be published by Routledge.

During the official opening, the keynote address was delivered by General Aronda Nyakairima, Ugandan Minister of Internal Affairs, ably represented by Col. Felix Kulayigye, UPDF Chief Political Commissar who spoke on the conference theme. Dr David Harris of the University of Bradford’s Department of Peace Studies delivered the official welcome on behalf of the Head of Department of Peace Studies Prof David Francis. Dr Arthur Bainomugisha, Executive Director of ACODE, gave an official welcome address on behalf of the Ugandan co-hosting partner institutions. About 100 participants attended the official opening and over 50 participants stayed back for the rest of the conference academic and policy research business.

The conference was divided into 5 plenaries, each with a designated chair and focusing on a sub-theme of the conference.  Ten papers were presented and discussed at the Conference; a few of the papers were co-authored. The papers focused on a broad range of topics such as the cost of war in Africa, the role of regional institutions in promoting peace and security on the continent, peacebuilding and security sector reforms in post-conflict areas, the role of youth and women in armed conflict, etc.

The conference ended with a cultural night and cocktail graced by African cultural dance and performance. General Caleb Akandwanaho, Presidential Advisor on Military Affairs performed the official closing in which he was tasked to present a paper titled: ‘From a Freedom Fighter to a Civilian; a Personal Experience.’  The General retitled his stimulating paper to read: “From Military Freedom Fighter to Democratic Freedom Fighter.” There was a stimulating question and answer session after the General’s paper presentation as in all the conference plenaries.

Dr David Harris gave an official vote of thanks to mark the end of the conference. Ugandan National TV Broadcast on the conference is available on Utube on the following link: http://ntv.co.ug/news/local/14/nov/2014/experts-say-african-union-weak-security#sthash.95CJoueR.dpbs

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