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The African Peacebuilding Network (APN) and the Next Generation Social Sciences (Next Gen) in Africa programs of the Social Science Research Council participated in the African Studies Association’s 62nd Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. The APN and Next Gen programs convened a special panel on “Discourses that Make or Mar: Engaging History, Identity and the Narratives of Violence and African Peacebuilding,” featuring the following APN and Next Gen alumni: Samaila Suleiman (IRG 2018 and Next Gen 2012/2013), Sifiso Ndlovu (Next Gen 2015), Chantal Ingabire (IRG 2017), and Edmore Chitukutuku (IRG 2018 and Next Gen 2013/2015). Program Director of the APN and Next Gen, Dr. Cyril Obi, was the chair and Patience Adzande (IRG 2017 and Next Gen 2013/2014) was the co-chair and discussant.

APN Special Panel

APN alumnus Chantal Ingabire (IRG 2017) presented a paper on “Youth Perspectives and Practices on the Reconciliation after the Genocide: A Study of Rwanda.” She focused on community-based sociotherapy and the importance of youth participation in reconciliation initiatives in post-genocide Rwanda. Dr. Ingabire also focused on psychosocial recovery from a historical perspective – in this case the history of the genocide – and how facilitating social change can promote sustainable peace by drawing upon the important role being played by youth associations/clubs. APN and Next Gen alumnus Edmore Chitukutuku (IRG 2018 and Next Gen 2013/2015) followed with a presentation on “Spiritualized Everyday Youth Peacebuilding Initiatives in Northern Zimbabwe.” He spoke about the ways in which youth in Northern Zimbabwe participate in spiritual cleansing ceremonies of youth who had committed acts of violence/atrocities in the past. It was a way of making them atone for their past acts of violence, reconcile with their victims and prevent future conflict. Dr. Chitukutuku also described his fieldwork experience working with churches in the region to get a deeper understanding of the messages of peace that the youth were embracing and how these were impacting conflict and peacebuilding in their communities.

The third presentation on, “Ethnocultural Diversity and Peacebuilding in Postcolonial Southern Africa: The Case of Post-apartheid South Africa.” was delivered by Next Gen alumnus Sifiso Ndlovu (Next 2015).  Dr. Ndlovu spoke about ethnocultural identity in South Africa and how diversity was accommodated under the constitutional design of the country.

The last presentation of the panel was given by APN alumnus Samaila Suleiman, who presented on “The Perils of History: Another Culture of Violence in Central Nigeria.” His paper was based on the problematic nature of the manipulation of historical facts and how these could escalate tensions or lead to conflict.  To illustrate this Dr. Sulaiman gave instances of the falsification of historical narratives by various political actors and how these increased inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions in Central Nigeria. He argued that the distortion of historical information to mobilize people along regional, religious and religious fault lines in a multi-ethnic and culturally diverse Nigeria was fueling a culture of violence with its attendant risks.

Other Panels

Several other APN and Next Gen alumni and grantees presented papers on other panels at the conference. APN alumnus Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka (IRG 2017) spoke on a Roundtable on “Field Research in Sensitive Contexts.” Dr. Bisoka talked about the decolonization of knowledge and shared some of his experiences regarding field research in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He urged other presenters and members of the audience to question and really think about the challenges that come with doing field work in conflict-affected settings, and how to address such challenges.

2017 Next Gen alumnus Evarist Ngabirano gave a presentation on “The Politics of Local Governance” on a panel on “Explaining Variation in Local Governance.” He focused his presentation on postcolonial politics of “tribalism” in Africa and Uganda. In his presentation he focused on the kingdom of Buganda and spoke about the ways in which this region has been an important site for the emergence of postcolonial ethno-politics in Uganda.

Current Next Gen fellow Titilope Ajayi (APN IRG 2018) presented a paper on “Local conflicts, global frameworks: the Boko Haram Conflict and the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda” at a panel on “Women and Political Resistance.” Ajayi emphasized the fact that the search for the missing Chibok girls was started by local women who were on the ground. In Nigeria, the elite women are the ones who hold the power when it comes to advocating for peace, however, where is the acknowledgement of the local women who started the work? When the lived realities of women who are most affected are overlooked, it leads to an incomplete view of the problem at hand.

2017/2018 Next Gen alumnus Patricia Serwaa Afrifa’s presentation was titled “’These Days Nothing is for Free’: The Nature of Childcare Arrangements in Urban Accra.” Her paper examined the changing nature of childcare arrangements and how they are impacted by social, cultural, and economic changes. She focused among others on the commodification of childcare and its impact on the changing dynamics that ensue within the household.

In addition to fellow and grantees, APN and Next Gen Program Officer Duncan Omanga presented on “Digitality” on the “African Studies Keywords Part III” panel. APN and Next Gen Program Director Dr. Cyril Obi spoke on a roundtable on “Change and Continuities in the 2019 Nigerian Elections” organized by the Nigerian Studies Association.

During the closing ceremony, the following fellows and alumni were honored as 2019 ASA Presidential Fellows: Patricia Serwaa Afrifa (Next Gen 2017), Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka (APN IRG 2017), and Evarist Ngabirano (Next Gen 2017). Serwaa and Aymar were also ASA-SSRC Presidential Fellows. Furthermore, Daniel Olisa Iweze (IRG 2017), Nicodemus Minde (IRG 2013 and Next Gen 2017/2019), Patience Adzande (IRG 2017 and Next Gen 2013/2014), and Titilope Ajayi (IRG 2018, Next Gen 2017/2019) were honored as Carnegie Corporation of New York Scholars and Fellows.