The Department of Political Sciences, in collaboration with the Department of Social Work and Criminology, hosted two seminars on peacebuilding on the University of Pretoria's (UP) Hatfield Campus in April this year. The first seminar, titled 'Peacebuilding initiatives among the youth', involved speakers from the Children Peace Initiative Kenya (CPI Kenya) who shared their experiences and insights with a panel of UP students, including an exchange student on the Ubuntu Fordham University-UP exchange programme, who served as one of the respondents. The students emphasised the need for platforms to continue debates on transformation and peace building initiatives. The second seminar, titled 'Peacebuilding experiences from the field in Kenya: The work of the Children Peace Initiative Kenya', shared field workers' experiences at grassroots level with a view to strengthening and promoting research and promoting research collaboration and action in the field of community-based peace and security efforts.
In her opening address, Prof Maxi Schoeman, Deputy Dean: Postgraduate Studies and Ethics in the Faculty of Humanities, said that what we have seen over the past few years, not only in the African Union but also in the United Nations, is the development of a new trend in that we are asking questions about the failure of traditional, often Western-derived conflict management and conflict resolution mechanisms. She went on to explain that there is a perception that the African continent is prone to conflict and that conflicts in Africa take up 75% of the Agenda of the Security Council. She reflected on increasing efforts to search for different kinds of conflict management mechanisms, approaches and conflict resolutions. These efforts endeavour to determine whether there are home-grown mechanisms that have developed with the continent and that can provide new avenues for action and reflection on how we can deal with conflict management and resolution. 'The idea of searching for internal or intra-African approaches is now gaining ground. What you are going to be exposed to today is one of these intracontinental approaches that have been developed by people on the continent who are knowledgeable and aware of what is happening in communities where conflict comes from,' she added.
Prof Schoeman welcomed and introduced the CPI Kenya founders, Mrs Monica Kinyua and Mr Hilary Bukuno. The speakers explained that CPI Kenya is a peacebuilding organisation that works with schoolchildren to promote peace and reconciliation among the pastoral communities in the South Rift Valley region and Northern Kenya. Mr Bukuno explained that pastoral communities are communities that derive their livelihood from keeping livestock and that ethnic conflicts associated with livestock date back to 1816. The organisation officially started their operations in September 2011 and their slogan reads, 'Working with children for a better tomorrow'.
The inspiration behind the creation of the organisation was the fact that the founding members realised that children were being side-lined with regard to how they are affected by conflict. 'Ethnic conflict needs to be handled, because although ethnicity can be a source of diversity and beauty in Africa, it has unfortunately to date been a source of conflict,' said Mrs Kinyua.
The initiative involved schoolchildren from different ethnic groups in Kenya in an effort to foster friendships. The children had the opportunity to attend a camp were they got to know and learn about each other and their different ethnicities outside of what they had been taught by their parents. The progress and success of the initiative became apparent when the parents of the children who were part of the initiative were eventually able to reconcile in the name of peace as a result of their children's friendships. Mr Bukuno mentioned that since the start of their initiative there has not been any deaths related to ethnic conflicts in the area. Their concluding statement read, 'The sunset of animosity shall pave the way for the sunrise of friendship and peace.'
The seminar concluded with a plenary discussion on how different disciplines can contribute to the strengthening of conflict management mechanisms, approaches and resolutions.