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The inaugural African University Seminar Series in Kenya (AUSS-Kenya) was held at the University of Nairobi, Kenya from June 12-13, 2023. The Kenya-based current and former fellows of the Social Science Research Council’s (SSRC’s) African Peacebuilding Network (APN) and Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa (Next Gen) organized the event fellows, under the guidance of the co-chairs of the APN-Next Gen Advisory Board, Dr. Steve Akoth (former Next Gen fellow) and Prof. Rita Abrahamsen. The AUSS-Kenya Local Organizing Committee (LOC) is led by the co-chairs, Jacinta Maweu (former APN fellow) and Rahma Hassan (former Next Gen fellow), and the members include other former APN fellows: Alex Kamwaria, Lilian Kong’ani, John Mwangi Githigaro (also a former Next Gen fellow), Joyce Omwoha, Susan Kung’u (also a Next Gen fellow), and Fredrick Ogenga. The event brought together current and former APN-Next Gen fellows during a 2-day seminar with the theme: “Security, Peacebuilding and Development in Africa: Reflections from Kenya.” It marked a significant first step towards consolidating the APN-Next Gen fellow/alumni network in Kenya into a distinct African scholarly community that promotes Afrocentric values of research excellence, knowledge production, and policy engagement.

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Nairobi hosted the seminar. Dr. Jennifer Muchiri, the Acting Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Nairobi, kicked off the event by giving welcome remarks. Dr. Steve Akoth of the APN and Next Gen Advisory Board then gave his opening remarks, highlighting the decade-long impact of the APN-Next Gen program on the professional development of Africa-based scholars. Dr. Mustafa Ali, co-founder and chairman of the HORN International Institute for Strategic Studies, followed with a keynote address on “Shared Security and the Age of Polycrisis,” in which he noted the importance of prioritizing “dialogue-centered conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms” and emphasizing the need for collective or “shared security.” He also encouraged participants to “work towards a more secure, peaceful, and prosperous Africa, driven by evidence, research, and analytical inquiry.”

The keynote was followed by the first panel on: “Indigenous knowledge and local peacebuilding cultures” moderated by John Mwangi Githigaro. The panel consisted of presentations by Flora Mutere (former Next Gen fellow), David Muthegethi (former Next Gen fellow), Frederick Ogenga (former APN fellow), and Sela Musundi (former APN fellow).

The second panel on: “Climate change, natural resource conflicts, and Security in Africa” was moderated by Lilian Kong’ani (former APN fellow). It consisted of presentations by Rahma Hassan (former Next Gen fellow), Mahat Issack Hassan (former Next Gen fellow), and Graham Oluteyo (former Next Gen fellow).

The second day of the seminar opened with a keynote by Prof. Musambayi Katumanga, associate professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Nairobi titled: “Geographing Development and Realities of Security.”

The first panel of the day was “Media, Memories and Peacebuilding,” moderated by Jacinta Mwende (former APN fellow). The panel consisted of presentations by Allen Wefwafwa (former Next Gen fellow), Susan Kung’u (former Next Gen fellow), and Muema Wambua (former Next Gen fellow).

The second panel on “Gender, Conflict, and Peacebuilding” was moderated by Alex Kamwaria (former APN fellow). It consisted of presentations by Joyce Omwoha, Lilian Kong’ani, and Roseanne Njiru (all former APN fellows), while the third and last panel on “Interstate Relations, Geopolitics, and Histories of Conflict,” was moderated by Susan Kung’u. The panel consisted of presentations by Benson Kanyani (former Next Gen fellow), Alex Kamwaria (former APN fellow), and Kizito Sabala (former APN fellow).

The AUSS-Kenya seminar wrapped up with great success. APN-Next Gen current and former fellows were able to present their papers and receive feedback from each other during the interactive and engaging Q&A sessions. In addition to being an opportunity to present and discuss their work, AUSS-Kenya was also a great networking opportunity for current and former fellows from different Kenyan universities and institutions located across the country.

The AUSS-Kenya participants unanimously agreed that this self-organized seminar was a great learning experience and an empowering initiative within the APN-Next Gen community and expressed the hope to make it a recurring annual seminar with involvement from more APN-Next Gen current and former fellows.