Speaker: Professor Peter Woodward (University of Reading)
About Prof Peter Woodward:
Professor Peter Woodward worked for the VSO in Kosti, Sudan from 1966-67 and then became a Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Khartoum until 1971 when he joined the Department of Politics at the University of Reading. He was also a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Natal, Durban in 1991 and 1993, and at the American University in Cairo in 1999.
Professor Woodward is regularly consulted on African affairs by various branches of government in several countries including the FCO; DFID; the US House of Representatives sub-committee on Africa; and US State Department. He also contributes to various media outlets, most regularly to the BBC World Service. He acted as Rapporteur for Sudan peace talks at the Carter Center in 1993, Chaired jointly by President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and Chaired constitutional talks on Sudan for the International Dialogues Foundation, Durham, 1999.
Promoting Peace Education in Somalia Universities: Experiences and insights
Somalia has been a failed state and without a central government for many years. War has traumatised Somali society, and destroyed its national institutions, infrastructure, social foundations positive ethos, communal trust, community spirit, solidarity, sense of hope and prevented meaningful dialogue. Somalia’s youth have grown up in a country where violence is the norm. This, combined with poverty and the complex problems of a post-conflict society has resulted in a large number of disenfranchised youth who are vulnerable to recruitment by extremist and criminal groups. This project aims to inspire Somali youth and restore a sense of hope, confidence and trust through a process of positive dialogue, reconciliation, building healthy relationships and learning non-violent communication methods.
About Dr Yusuf Sheikh Omar & Khadijo Osman: Yusuf Sheikh Omar holds PhD from La Trobe University. He is a writer, a poet, peace activist. He worked as a teacher at Victoria University, as a researcher at University of Melbourne and Victorian Transcultural Mental Health focusing on Khat Use in the Horn of African community in Victoria and on Emotional wellbeing of the Horn of African Muslim men. His research focuses on social integration of young Somalis living in the western countries. Dr Khadijo Mohamed Osman has a PhD from University College London, School of Pharmacy, UK.
The annual Peace Studies & International Development conference for Africanist doctoral students and early post-doctoral career scholars and practitioners is scheduled to take place on the 11th May 2017 at the University of Bradford in United Kingdom.
The conference theme is: Resources, Conflict and Development in Africa.
Conference cluster themes include:
1) Natural Resources and Conflict
2) Transition from Resource Conflict to Peace and Peacebuilding
3) Natural Resources, Demographic Change and Development
4) Conflict, Security, Peace and Development Nexus
5) Regional Integration, Security and Development
6) Africa and the Rest of the World
The conference is open to doctoral students and early career scholars, researchers and practitioners. Potential participants and paper presenters are required to submit an Abstract of 200 – 300 words on or before 15th November 2016 to: firstname.lastname@example.org
All shortlisted participants will be required to submit the first draft of their papers at least two months before the conference. The conference is expected to result in a co-edited book (Lead Editor: Professor Kenneth Omeje, Senior Research Fellow, John & Elnora Ferguson Centre of African Studies, University of Bradford). Kindly note that all short-listed participants will be responsible for the full-cost of their participation, including visa, travels, accommodation and subsistence.
Professor David Francis visited the Mount Kenya University in Nairobi, and the University main campus in Thika between 27- 28 June, 2016, where he held meetings with the University Vice Chancellor Professor Stanley Wando and other Senior administrators on the prospect for capacity –building partnership with the University of Bradford.
The envisioned partnership will support the development of curricula in context-relevant areas of Peace and Security studies starting with the Master of Science in Peace and Social Enterprise, an international conference on Peace and Security in Africa, as well as an International Journal of Peace and Social Enterprise.
MKU offers a variety of programmes in peace and security studies through its Institute of Security Studies, Justice and Ethics. University of Bradford’s Department of Peace Studies, which Professor Francis heads, celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014. The two institutions have agreed to work together on Staff capacity training/mentorship and exchange programmes. “Lack of information on available opportunities has been a hindrance to African academics,” said Professor Waudo. “But this relationship opens a treasure trove of information. Our staff, for instance, will now have information on Commonwealth scholarships available.” Professor David is a Commissioner for the UK Commonwealth Scholarship Commission.
Emma Jones is a Programme Assistant with Advocates Coalition of Development and Environment (ACODE). In this below piece she writes about the necessity of peace perspectives in framing security in East Africa, and presents a review of a recent 2-day conference in which JEFCAS was involved.
[Eritrea's diaspora is one of the largest refugee communities in the world; in Israel (above protest) they are among many immigrants subject to draconian policy and detention]
Tesfalem H. Yemane is a current Peace Sutdies MA at the University of Bradford. Originally from Eritrea, he is a scholar at risk and refugee.
Fear and uncertainty have been the biggest enemies of mine since I left my country in 2010. But now, I find myself sitting in the office of
Professor David J Francis, a man of overflowing and reassuring academic aura. After months of nail-biting wait, I am offered a place at the Division of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. Going through the memories of the past five years of my life, I whispered, “I should be wary of resting on my laurels now.” For a person of my background, education and hard-work are the only gateways for countless opportunities. I should be grounded!
My life journey is that of many Eritrean youths’. At independence, the country was dubbed by many as the beacon of hope and renaissance in Africa. Its leadership, along with those of Uganda’s Museveni, Ethiopia’s Zenawi and Rwanda’s Kagame, was touted as the new breed in African leadership. In the heat of such euphoria and jubilations, we ostensibly boasted on turning the new nation into ‘the Singapore of Africa’. Those dreams have been shattered and we tuck Professor Gaim Kibreab’s book, ‘Eritrea: A Dream Deferred‘ under our pillows. The book explores the national euphoria at independence and the disappointing disjuncture that has resulted in a dystopian society thanks to the regime’s siege mentality.
In the aftermath of the devastating 1998-2000 Ethio-Eritrea war, the country has turned into a giant prison wherein forced disappearance, extrajudicial killing, arbitrary arrest and severe curtailment of freedom of expression and movement are the norm. There is zero tolerance to dissidence and any legal procedures have been a hard sell to the ‘democratic novices’, to borrow Professor Chandra L. Sriram’s phrase. Under the pretext of existential threat,from its favourite bogey, Ethiopia, the regime has employed a pervasive security apparatus that has virtually controlled every aspect of the citizens’ lives. Eritrea is a society under siege and the dream of making the country a major trading terminus in the strategic part of the Red Sea has been sorely deferred.
The leadership’s anti-intellectual culture has forced many bright minds into exile. The only university that operated with an internationally accredited academic standard was deliberately dismantled in 2006, and with it, the hope of nurturing a mass of critical thinkers in the Eritrean body politic poignantly gone. Accompanied by media concoctions, six sub-standard and militarized colleges were hastily grafted in different parts of the country. And in an invasive manner, parallel party and paramilitary structures were put in place to create a numbing duplication of tasks and tight control of the Eritrean youth.
A state of a crumbling economy, indefinite military service and the lethargy of oppressive hopelessness have forced the youth to ‘vote with their feet’ and embark on the perilous journeys. It was in this context that I decided to vote with my feet in April 2010, never to set foot again. Because of the regime’s imprudent macroeconomic and impulsive diplomatic decisions, the state of the economy was very precarious in the 2000s. In fact, the brunt and wrinkles of the notorious coupon economy were so humiliating that I was excited to find out basic food commodities were in good supply when I first arrived in Sudan. I spent more than two months in the Hobbesian-like and desolate refugee camp in the periphery of eastern Sudan before I was smuggled to the capital.
While in Sudan, I envied the relative freedom of expression presentin the East African country. I bore witness when many Sudanese took to the streets of Khartoum, rattling, “The people of Sudan are hungry!” in April 2012. Having said this, however, I should be cautious of vindicating the authoritarian government in Khartoum. As oppressive as it is, Khartoum’s strong handedness pales in comparison with Asmara’s.
In Uganda, a country infamously known for its rampant corruption, I bore witness to people taking to the streets to demand their President heed to public concerns and corrupt officials be held accountable. I also noted many newspapers publicising information about corrupt officials, police officers and the government.
My time in China was an eye opening cultural and intellectual ride. Those late night discussions, debates and questions about the merits and demerits of a developmental state and state capitalism shaped my worldview. Those many discussions about the dialectics of Washington Consensus and Beijing Consensus were reconciled by the synthesis of Geneva Consensus during my memorable years in China.
However, there was a downside to such a pleasant experience in China-that I was a refugee in a student’s body. I had to struggle to conceal my story from many of my wonderful classmates; because I did not want to have a different identity. I lacked the emotional and intellectual maturity to come out and share my story and the story of my compatriots. And that was the most painful episode of my amazing time in China.
I also realized the mismatch between the China of Mao as emulated in Eritrea and the current China and its politico-economic policies. The Eritrean regime serenades in the past achievements of the armed struggle while China has moved away from Mao’s disastrous policies. And thanks to the Isaias Afewerki’s short politico-military training in China in the late 1960s, we sing the ‘Red’ song louder than the Chinese do. The Eritrean leadership still dances to Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ and ‘Cultural Revolution’ rhetoric while the Chinese themselves have moved on and started reaping the rewards of Deng Xiaoping’s economic vision.
On Eritrea, I still remain positive that my country will have its Godsend Lee Kuan Yew sooner than later-a leader who rectifies the malaise the nation finds itself in and Professor Alex de Waal is convinced to backtrack his Museum of Modernism tag on the current state of affairs in the country.
Christine Mutisya is a project coordinator for the Una Hakika project. She has an MSc in development and project planning from Bradford University. She is engaged in managing misinformation for the Sentinel Project, involving herself in peacebuilding activities and project management.
Adrian Gregorich is the community manager at the Sentinel Project. His academic background is in human rights, holding an MSc in human rights from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and an honours BA in political science and human rights from Carleton University in Ottawa. Adrian has worked with a number of NGOs around Africa as well as in Canada. His research and campaigning interests lie in mine action, violence prevention, poverty reduction, and global primary health care. He works as a freelance writer and resides in Ottawa, Canada. He can be reached via Twitter: @AdGregorich
Misinformation is a major problem in societies around the world, especially now that the rise of social media enables the spreading of rumours to happen much faster than was possible in the pre-digital era. Kenya’s Tana Delta region provides a good example not only of how misinformation can spread, but also how information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be used to monitor and contain its harmful effects.
Misinformation was one of the factors that led to violence in the Tana Delta during 2012 and 2013, a time when Kenya was warming up to the general election scheduled for March 2013. At such times, politics and land injustices become especially salient and these also factored into the clashes which killed nearly 170 people while displacing tens of thousands. The aftermath included increased hatred and mistrust between the two most affected ethnic communities, the Orma and the Pokomo. Even after the election period ended, misinformation still spread throughout the Tana Delta, thus continuing tensions in the region.
A Sentinel Project team visited the Tana Delta in early 2013 and recognized this problem of rumours, which led to the creation of Una Hakika (Swahili for “Are you sure?”), a mobile phone-based information system used to map and counter misinformation in the Tana Delta. One of Una Hakika’s long-term goals is to enable people to ask themselves are you sure before taking action on any information. Rapid action on false rumours before verification led to some of the violence in 2012-2013.
Before setting up the system, the Una Hakika team conducted a baseline survey throughout the Tana Delta during January-February 2014 in order to understand the spread of information in the region, what technologies people use to share that information, and to generally understand the potential users of Una Hakika in order to better design the system. One key finding from the survey was that 87.3% of the 249 respondents believed rumours contributed to violence in the region, while 61.1% of respondents had heard information they believed to be untrue within the previous 12 months. Out of those 61.1% only 50.6% took further action to verify if the information was true.
Una Hakika works as a free mobile phone-based reporting system with a short code through which individual citizens report incidents or potential misinformation, after which they receive verification of its accuracy. This works via a three-stage process. In the first stage, users send information to the system, through SMS, phone calls, the Una Hakika website, or by speaking to a trained community ambassador. who serve as a bridge between people and technology.
The second stage of the process prioritizes and verifies received messages by drawing upon a variety of information sources which may be able to provide the facts of the situation relating to a given rumour. These sources include the community ambassadors, local authorities (police and administration), other NGOs operating in the area, and the media (social media and mainstream media).
Third, once the Una Hakika team has verified reports of a rumour they are then able to provide feedback to the community about the authenticity of the information. This response is targeted to ensure that the rumour management process does not inadvertently spread rumours. Rumour verifications are still only sent to subscribers in the villages from which those rumours were reported, since there is a risk of people who have not heard a given rumour focusing on the wrong parts of a counter message and disregarding the statement that the rumour is false.
Two years down the line, Una Hakika has seen tremendous results. People’s mindsets have changed in the sense that now when a resident in the Tana Delta hears a rumour their first reactions is increasingly likely to verify its validity before passing it on or taking any action. The number of survey respondents who would look into the accuracy of information the were not convinced was true has risen from from 50.6% to 57.4%. Previously, information tended to be taken at face value, and some people would take drastic action upon hearing threatening rumours.
Government officials also see the importance of Una Hakika as they are now able to synchronize efforts with the system, thus ensuring that they do not waste time or resources reacting to false information. Another advantage of the Una Hakika model is that residents who fear being interrogated by police can report to the Una Hakika team, which will then turn it over to the authorities. This increased level of trust has resulted in some instances when the Una Hakika team received information about serious incidents (including massacres) even before the police did.
Trust is difficult to build, but this process has been a major factor in the success of Una Hakika’s community engagement. At the beginning of the project the community was wary of their aim, which is understandable due to the violence they had experienced. In order to gain trust the Una Hakika staff had to rely on existing trusted networks such as the local administration, religious leaders, and community elders.
Community engagement goes hand-in-hand with trust. While Una Hakika uses technology to fight misinformation, the human element cannot be ignored. The cultures of the Tana Delta value face-to-face meetings, and the priority given to conduct such meetings has played an integral role in Una Hakika’s success. However, this is not easy since one must ensure impartiality and inclusivity when dealing with an ethnically diverse community such as those in the Tana Delta.
Despite many challenges, the Una Hakika project has made a substantial contribution to the peacebuilding process in the Tana Delta through the development, testing, and refinement of tools and techniques for countering misinformation that has the potential to lead to violence. The Una Hakika model also demonstrates great potential for being applied in other regions of Kenya, as well as other violence-prone areas around the world.
[Image credit: Richard Mosse/Institute, Congo in Infrared]
Even outside of the West, discourses on “the Congo” are pervasive and chronologically reaching. From colonial to post-colonial independence and contemporary Congo, trouble has seemed to be constant. Or in the words of the historian Gerard Prunier ‘conflicts (…) roll down into the Congo basin like so many overripe toxic fruits.’ Such discourses , helpful or not, often entreat us to accept the dyads of hope/despair, violence/peace (think the Enough Project). In Franz fanon’s Wretched of the Earth we are again confronted with this centrality of crisis, ‘If Africa is shaped like a gun, and Congo is the trigger. If that explosive trigger bursts, its the whole Africa that will explode.’ Congo has both exploded and slowly withered, yet it remains. Its people persevere perhaps out of a finely tuned survival instinct, or maybe even purposefully to offer something new to another generation.
Amani Itakuya is an essay series that attempts to capture these problems and critically express these discourses. Authors are drawn from a variety of local/international and vocational backgrounds. The Swahili title, meaning “peace will come”, does betray an earnest hope for the future, but this collection promotes engagement over pure advocacy.
The current (second) series is being posted daily, and is, as of this writing, half way through the 25 essays. Read, consider and reflect!