ROLE OF THE ACADEMIA IN PEACE BUILDING IN AFRICA
Paper presented by Dr. Edith Natukunda-Togboa
the Peace and Non-violence Workshop
this paper, we will be reflecting on the role of the African academia in peace
building, using four main questions:
posing these four major questions, the paper will attempt, in its conclusion to
propose some recommendations aimed at tackling the present day constraints to
the academia's full contribution to peace building in Africa.
is the urgency of peace building to Africa today?
us to fully appreciate the importance of peace in Africa, we have to appreciate
it as a very broad concept, encompassing the crucial elements of social justice.
This takes us beyond the narrow interpretation of peace as the absence of war.
As one Icelander student from the University of Peace puts it:
"Peace is more than absence of
violence. Peace can only exist where there is justice, where human rights are
inviolable, where the environment is respected and individuals and nations are
In Africa, however, when we look around us,
when we check our daily realities, we notice, as another Malawite peace student
"The presence of poverty, hunger, human
diseases, discrimination, corruption and general insecurity of the person that
we so often see in our countries makes [us] think more critically about how we
can really enjoy life as human beings as God meant it to be. We really need to
realise that peace is more than the presence of army."
The two students' interpretations of peace
are in effect complimentary. They abode peace as the wider notion, going beyond
military sociology definitions. They imply a process of co-operation, justice
Having laid the foundation for our
conception of peace, we can discuss why there is urgency for peace building in
Africa. This is where we submit that, with "One African in five [live] in a
country severely disputed by conflict."
and refugees rising "from 8.5 to 18 million over the past decade"
and conflict being responsible for Africa's political and moral
disasters: "genocide in Rwanda, anarchy in Somalia, slavery in Sudan and
cannibalism in Liberia."
no one can dispute the pressing need for peace building in Africa!
Millions of people have lost their lives.
About 23 million of those have died to HIV/AIDS, which has been exercebated by
massive military mobilisations and mega displacements of people fleeing from
war. Apart from the loss of properties, Africa has also lost billions of dollars
in organising national peace conferences; for example 20 such nation-wide
conferences have been organised for Somalia over the last decade, to no avail!
forces that have tended to negate development, pushing average per-capita
incomes to levels lower than in the 1960s
point to the urgent need for peace building in Africa!
are the actors involved?
question of the actors involved has intentionally been left open-ended in this
-That is to say, by the
"actors involved" we wanted to capture those involved in the
prevailing conflicts and the ones engaged in peace building.
scholars have pointed to the heterogeneous nature of actors involved in the
process of conflicts. Some are state and others are non-state actors. Because of
the complexity of that mixture, we will find individual groups, non-governmental
organisations; academics institutions… all involved at one stage or another of
conflict prevention, management or resolution. Their involvement in conflict
related activities are antithetical to their involvement in peace building,
since one is but one side of the dichotomy matching the other.
as we ask ourselves, the frustrating question of who is primarily responsible
for and may gain from conflict situations, so should we reflect on those who are
involved in picking up the pieces after the conflict has broken out.
contemporary Africa where decision-making and power relations are still
pre-dominantly a prerogative of the elite, we can safely deduce, as stated by
the Nigerian, Prof. Njoka that conflicts are promoted primarily by the elite:
"It is obvious that conflicts are
promoted by the elite who are usually leaders of communities, religious sects
political persuasions, ethnic divides, etc., with intent to continue in
leadership, acquire more territories or may be seeking relevance"
if the dichotomy were so symmetrical, if the equation was that well balanced, we
would expect the elites, including the academia, to be at the heart of peace
building! But is this the case in Africa, whether in the past or today? This
takes us to next point of reflection, the African academia and their
contribution to peace building.
How have the African academia been contributing to
peace building in Africa?
fact that Africa by and large has limited capacity in terms of tools and
institutions that would foster and keep peace, comes as no surprise to any of
us! The task of making substantive contributions to our desperate need for peace
building is in itself an indicator of our incapability to face the enormous
challenge of resolving our conflicts! But we should remember that the crippling
effects of conflicts cannot but cripple the very foundations of our, would be
institutions for peace!
we take the teaching of peace studies at African Universities as an illustration
of the academia's contributions, we will note that there have been very few
universities in the past that have been offering these programmes. And we should
hasten to add that for a university to practically contribute to peace building,
it needs to be an academically free institution. In other words, when the
culture of peace is completely negated by a belligerent government, very little
can be expected, with regards to the degree of academic freedom that it will
accord to its universities, or its academia. As Prof. Andreas Eshete from
"Academic freedom matters, among other
things, because even the most benign governments, unlike the universities, must
make use of coercion and secrecy."
must be taken however the contribution of regional organisations such as the
Council for Development of Social Research in Eastern Africa (CODESRIA), the
Organisation of Social Science Research in East Africa (OSSREA) and the
Association of African women for Research and Development (AAWORD) for their
promotion of academic freedom. Inspite of state restrictions on the academia,
these organisations have provided a welcome alternative channel for peace
research, even when the contributing African academia have long been sent into
exile for "political insubordination."
a historical tracing of peace studies as a channel for peace building world
wide, Dr. Ebrahima Sall from Gambia quoting Carolyne Stephenson identifies three
"waves" of peace studies:
"The first one began in the 1930s, with
quantitative studies of war and largely academic driven. The second was in the
1960s. it broadened the field to include the study of the impact of forms of
violence and injustice and peace research… The third wave began in the early
1980s and was more affected by movements and mobilisations than by academia and
the widening of the field of peace studies and the popularisation of related
concepts, peace and non-violence finally started taking roots in Africa.
Although the political tools of non-violence seemed to have been generated
earliest with the work and practice of Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa in the
1940s. In the 1960s, Albert Luthuli, Zulu Chief and President of the African
National Congress (ANC) was the first African to receive a Nobel Prize for
Peace. Even independent thinkers promoting non-violence like Steve Biko and
Nelson Mandela happened to have developed their thinking in South Africa. This
cannot be by coincidence, as Ebrahima Sall notes, it is because of the existence
powerful indigenous tradition of non-violence resistance to injustice."
It is therefore not surprising to note that
by and large, the institutionalisation of departments of peace and peace
building studies is still weak in Africa, apart from South Africa. However, this
image and mapping of Africa is changing very quickly. There are a lot of signs
of improvement in many parts of Africa like Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Rwanda
Eritrea and Uganda, where Conflict and Resolution Studies' Centres or
Departments are being commissioned every year!
The proof is the present inauguration of our very own Humanist and Peace
We will note however that the following
continue to be daunting problems for institutionalising peace studies:
Given these challenges to African academia's
contribution to peace building, as illustrated by the case of peace studies, it
is imperative that Africa has to leap from its inner abilities towards the
outside to pick lessons for future orientation. This takes us to the next
question of our reflection: the global dimension of peace building.
What lessons can Africa learn from the global
dimensions of peace building and non-violence?
Many African scholars have blamed
globalisation for much of the destructive patterns of development that have
aggravated environmental degradation and poverty in the Least Developed
Countries (LDC). On the other hand, countries of the global North have been
advocating for more globalisation, more trade and privatisation. It is likely
that countries of the Global North and the Global South will remain perpetually
divided on issues of "free trade" and "sustainable
development." The most outstanding lesson for us Africans to pick from this
debate is that it all hinges on power relations in the global economy. And as
the UN Secretary General Kofi Anan has remarked:
"A path to prosperity that ravages the
environment and leaves the majority in squalor and despair, will soon prove to
be a dead-end road for everyone."
Having noted the grave threats of global
imbalance, we can observe nonetheless that some scholars have pointed out that
Africa should try to see what dimensions or processes of globalisation have
facilitated some opportunities for the continent. We will examine those
opportunities that are linked to the domain of peace and non-violence.
Gills observed that globalisation, through its dimensions like the Internet,
have facilitated the organisation of "coalitions of resistance" of
those that are disadvantaged by the globalisation of the world economy. He
further quotes others like Cox on the coming together of the "global
society" and social movements, which include the academia that are mounting
pressure for alternative development models and changes in the world order.
It is from this angle, which juxtaposes
economic and human development, human rights and basic security that we can try
to pick some lessons on potential gains for Africa from globalisation. It is the
possibility of capturing numbers of advocates for human security and peace
building, that Africa can hope to learn lessons in the prevention, management
and resolution of conflicts together with the international community.
It is through working with the Africans in
the Diaspora and international community, through new technologies and media
channels that the African society and institutions are evolving new ways of
managing, resolving and living beyond conflict. With the help of the
international community Africa has come to accept the following:
Inspite of the lessons that we can pick from
the global dimensions of peace building, we have to recognise our role as
Africans as major stakeholders in our precarious quest for peace. In the context
of our role as academia I would like to make the following recommendations,
which would help us to be better peace builders:
Finally, I will remark that peace building
and non-violence is a task not only of academia, but the whole society. In
conclusion, allow me to use the works of the Chancellor of the University for
Peace, Graça Machel who has eloquently observed that:
"In essence what we are dealing with
means life and death to millions of human beings. The difference will be in
those choices we make between picking up an AK-47 or engaging in non-violent
resistance as a way of expressing those feelings of frustrations, anger and
hopelessness. The process of shifting our world from a culture of violence to a
culture of peace, must therefore be seated deeply with each and everyone of
So after listening to this paper, what is
your choice today?
Crislason Offar Freyr,
Student from Island;
University for Peace Prospectus
, 2003, pg15.
Nkuna Martin, student from
University for Peace Prospectus
World Bank Development Report
Alex de Waal (ed); Who fights
Who cares?: War and Humanitarian Action in Africa
New Jersey, African
World press, 2000
Ashete Andreas (Prof.)
"Innovation in African Universities: Obstacles and Opportunities"
Unpublished paper presented at a Workshop of the University for Peace, Maputo,
Mozambique 2002, pg1.
World Bank Report, op. Cit.
Njoku C. Placid (Prof.),
"Integration of Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies into the Foundation
General Studies Programme of Nigeria Universities" Unpublished paper
presented at UPEACE Workshop, Maputo, Mozambique 2002, pg1.
Ashete Adreas op. Cit. pg2.
"Definitions, Conceptions and Debates in Peace and Security Studies in
Africa" Unpublished paper presented at the UPEACE Workshop, Maputo,
Mozambique, 2002 pg11.
Sall Ebrahim; Idem pg17.
Chioma Filomina (Prof.)
"Opinion: World Summit on Sustainable Development" in ECHO, No.10-11
Dec. 2002, a quarterly of A AWORD, pg14.
"Insecurity in Africa at the Start of the Twenty-First Century; From
Recession to Renaissance?" in Trajectoria de Consolidasao e Renovacao
1992-2002, a publication of the Instituto Superior de Relacoes Internacionais,
Maputo, Mozambique August 2002, pg50-56.
Sall Ebrahima, op. Cit.
Denis Ameena, Summary Report
on Peace Studies in Africa, Unpublished paper presented at UPEACE workshop,
Maputo, 2002 pg1.
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