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Africa regional conference marks the 40th anniversary of Peace Studies at Bradford

Published: Mon 8 Dec 2014
Africa regional conference marks the 40th anniversary of Peace Studies at Bradford

The African regional conference convened to mark the 40th anniversary of Peace Studies programme at the University of Bradford was held at the prestigious Serena Hotel in Kampala, Uganda on 14th November 2014. The Conference focused on the theme - Why War? Africa. The conference was organized by the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford in partnership with the Kampala-based Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE). Other local partners that co-hosted the Conference are Mbarara University of Science and Technology and the Peace and Conflict Studies Programme at Makerere University.

The principal objective of the Conference was to bring together academics, political leaders, policy practitioners and alumni to:

  1. Share ideas on how to understand and end the scourge of wars in Africa.
  2. Develop practical solutions to build peace and reconcile bitterly divided communities.

Furthermore, the conference presented an ideal opportunity to take stock of past achievements and to debate how peace and conflict research as a field of academic endeavour might be redefined in the coming decades. The conference was opened with a welcome address and some introductory remarks by Prof. David Francis, Head of the Peace Studies Department, presented on his behalf by Dr David Harris. Prof Francis noted that the conference was taking place against the backdrop of the commemoration of the First World War Centenary and the role Africa played in the war. There have been a number of violent wars and armed conflict which have portrayed Africa as a hopeless continent. In spite of this seemingly cynical portrayal, Africa has emerged in recent years as one of the fastest growing economic regions in the world and these recent achievements have been made possible because of the peaceful end of several wars and armed conflicts that have ravaged the continent. Hence, peace is a prerequisite for security, stability, socio-political and economic development.

The official opening and keynote address was given by General Aronda Nyakairima, Ugandan Minister of Internal Affairs - he was represented by Col. Felix Kulayigye, UPDF Chief Political Commissar.

Col. Kulayigye spoke on the conference theme and his presentation provided the historical context of wars in Africa, attributing the phenomena to a nexus of indigenous and exogenous factors namely colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism and the consequences of the Cold War on the continent. The solution to Africa’s challenges lies in dealing with internal state weaknesses to build strong institutions. Col. Kulayigye emphasized that Africa has in recent years demonstrated enormous prospect as the continent has some of the world’s fastest growing economies. Africa’s rising economies increasingly attract high levels of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) to strengthen their resource base. He called on African states and leaders to work towards regional economic integration in order to build a more viable market and bolster their competitiveness in international trade.

The conference had five plenary sessions in which eleven papers were presented and discussed.  The papers touched on a wide range of subjects including the cost of war in Africa, electoral democracy, the role of regional organizations, the principles of peace-building in marginalized societies, among others. Three key strand of discussion from the plenary sessions were firstly, the relevance of peace studies and the necessity to publicly share a narrative of the discipline and its intellectual and applied-policy achievements. Secondly, a number of papers stressed the need to encourage a culture of electoral democracy in Uganda and Africa by ensuring that there is an independent electoral commission, constitutional imposition of presidential term limits and professionalization of the security forces. Thirdly, it was strongly argued that the role of gender in conflict resolution, particularly the power of women and the youth, needs to be explicitly recognized and fostered.

The conference ended with an African cultural night and cocktail graced by scintillating performances from Ndere Dance Troupe and the famous stand-up comedian Stephen Rwangyezi. 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 paper to read: “From Military Freedom Fighter to Democratic Freedom Fighter,” stressing that he is still fighting for freedom albeit no longer militarily but to establish food and human security in Uganda. His paper emphasized the importance of grassroots agricultural production and food security to democracy and governance in Africa, arguing that poverty was at the root of armed violence and war on the continent. There was a question and answer session after the General’s stimulating paper presentation. Dr David Harris gave an official vote of thanks to the Ugandan government, local conference organising team and participants.

Evaluation feedbacks received from participants applauded the conference as intellectually invigorating and successful. Most participants remarked that more of such conferences are needed to educate people on the relevance of peace studies and the educational, research and training opportunities available at the University of Bradford and elsewhere in the UK.

Twitter coverage of the event was strong with 411 tweets about the event; the impact (i.e. the potential number of times someone could have seen the conference hashtag [#WhyWar Africa]) was placed at over 2,000,000 and an overall reach of over 750,000. Regarding national news coverage, two leading Ugandan national dailies reported on the conference. New Vision reported on the event under the caption ‘UPDF Blames West for Wars’, published on 17th November 2014 while  the Daily Monitor reported same with the headline: ‘Changing Constitutions Causing Conflict in Africa says DP Leader’, published Sunday 16th November 2014. The conference was also broadcast on national news. 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


Conference Papers, Presenters and Institutional Affiliations

Conference PapersPresenterInstitutional Affiliation
‘Why War? Africa’ Colonel Felix Kulayigye Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) Chief Political Commissar
‘The Cost of War in Africa; An Overview of the Price of Peace’ Dr. Arthur Bainomugisha, Executive Director, ACODE, Uganda
‘The Role of Regional Organizations in Promoting Peace and Security in Africa’ Professor Phillip Kasaija, Department of Political Science and Administration, Makerere University, Uganda
‘The Importance of Security Sector Reforms in Building a Professional Army; Perspectives from Uganda’ Brigadier General Matthew Gureme, Chief of Staff, Uganda Rapid Deployment Capability Centre
‘The Principles of Peacebuilding in Marginalized Societies’ Dr Tony Karbo, Director of the Karamoja Cluster Project, Associate Professor, University for Peace, Africa Programme, Addis Ababa and Director of the Karamoja Cluster Project in Uganda
‘State, Non-State Development Agencies and Post-Conflict Recovery and Development in Northern Uganda: Attaining Sustainable Development or Sustaining Minimum Recovery?’ Dr Eric Awich Ochen, Lecturer, Makerere University, Uganda
‘The Invisible Actors in Conflict De-Escalation: The Role of Youths and Women in the Uganda National Rescue Front II Armed Conflict’ Ms. Agatha Alidri, Lecturer, Department of History, Gulu University, Uganda
‘The Global Theatre of Politicized Faith Groups and State Policies: The Influence on African Politics and Political Leaders’ Mercy Fekadu Mulugeta and Zeynya Shikur, Assistant Researchers, Institute for Peace and Security Studies, University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
’Electoral Reforms and Democracy in Africa’ Norbert Mao, President, Democratic Party, Uganda
‘Research for Building Peace in Africa’ Professor Kiran Cunningham, ACODE Research Fellow and Professor of Anthropology, Kalamazoo College, USA
‘The SPLM Government and the Challenges of State-Building and Peace-Building in South Sudan’ Prof Kenneth Omeje, Senior Visiting Research Fellow, JEFCAS, University of Bradford, United Kingdom

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