On Thursday September 27, 2012 the West African Research Association (WARA) in collaboration with the Cambridge Peace Commission, held a panel discussion on Peace & Conflict Resolution in West Africa at the Public Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts. More than seventy people enjoyed a spread of West African finer foods from Bytes @ University Park MIT, a local West African restaurant owned by Guinean Mr. Amadou Barry. WARA Executive Director, Jennifer Yanco opened the event with information on WARA, its history and mission, and noting that this event was the final event of the West African Peace Initiative, a three-year project that has involved various activities in West Africa. She introduced Mr. Abel Djassi Amado, a doctoral candidate in Political Science at Boston University. Mr. Amado, who has been involved in the project since its inception, provided background on the West African Peace Initiative, a multi-faceted project organized and implemented by WARA/ WARC in the interest of promoting research and dialogue on peace building and conflict resolution in the region. The project, funded through a generous grant from the US Department of State, included three regional conferences (Dakar 2009, Freetown 2010, Praia 2011), an institute for journalists reporting on conflict in the region, a fellowship program, youth conferences, and other activities.
Thursday’s event featured three distinguished panelists: Professor Abu Bakarr Bah, of Northern Illinois University, founder and Editor-in-chief of the African Conflict & Peace-building Review (ACPR), a peer reviewed journal which grew out of the West African Peace Initiative; Professor Wendy Wilson-Fall, Director of Africana Studies at Lafayette College, who serves on the steering committee of the West African Peace Initiative and has written extensively about Africa and the African Diaspora; and Ms. Janet Johnson, who covered the civil war in Liberia and who is featured prominently in the documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which chronicles the key role of women in bringing an end to the civil war in Liberia.Each of the three panelists made a presentation, focusing on his or her area of expertise. Given the diversity of their experience and perspective, this made for a very rich set of presentations. This was followed by a roundtable among the panelists, after which the discussion was opened up to the audience. There were more than 20 questions posed by audience members, all of which the panelists were able to address. These questions covered a wide range of concerns, including the role of poverty in driving conflict; the ways in which religion and ethnicity are used to fuel conflict; the effectiveness of local peacebuilding practices; the role of the international community; and specific questions about the Liberian civil war and the current situation in Northern Mali.
All who were in attendance, including the President of Africans in Boston Mr. Voury Ignegongba, expressed gratitude to WARA for hosting this event and was extremely pleased
with the nature of the conversation. The event has been filmed and excerpts will soon be available for viewing on the website of the West African Peace Initiative www.westafricapeace.org
Saida Oumul Khairy Niasse: Her Father’s Daughter
Pearl T. Robinson, Tufts University
Rethinking Islam in West Africa, a lecture series jointly sponsored by Boston University African Studies Center and the West African Research Association was pleased to feature Professor Pearl Robinson as the first speaker of the 2012-2013 year. Professor Robinson spoke about her forthcoming documentary on female empowerment among the Tidjaniyya Sufi order in Niger. The film, Mama Kiota, examines the life and work of Saida Oumul Khairy Niasse, whose promotion of education, financial autonomy, civic engagement, and a strong sense of identity as an African Muslim woman, bridges the gap between the global feminist movement and Islamic feminists. Professor Robinson’s remarks about the process of making this film included glimpses into the personal and family life of this remarkable woman who is the founding president of the Jamiyat Nassirat Dine, a Muslim women’s association with nearly 100 chapters in Niger and branches in eight West African countries. Mama Kiota is narrated in Hausa and will be distributed through markets for Sufi religious goods, video entertainment markets, mobile movies, online sites and academic markets.
Pearl Robinson is Associate Professor of Political Science and a former Director of the Program in International Relations at Tufts University. She has authored more than forty articles and book chapters, has been a Ford Foundation Visiting Professor at Makerere University, a Visiting Professor at the University of Dar es Salaam, and a Research Affiliate of the Université Abdou Moumouni in Niamey. Robinson is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a past President of the African Studies Association, and a former chair of the SSRC/ACLS Joint Committee on African Studies. She has served on the national boards of Oxfam-America, TransAfrica, the National Council of Negro Women’s International Division, and is presently a member of the WARA board of directors.
WARC Book Presentation and Dedication Ceremony
By General Mamadou Niang
Never before, since the time WARC started the exercise, has a book launch drawn such a huge and distinguished audience. Indeed, WARC was so packed with academics, political leaders, military top brass, writers, former and active senior government officials, retired and active diplomats (both national and foreign), executives from the private sector, journalists and other members of the larger public that WARC was literally blocked with the incredible number of cars parked in the neighborhood. The career and personality of the author are certainly the major reasons accounting for this great turn-out.
General Niang, who grew up as a young Fulani on the banks of the Senegal River (the Old Man River of all Senegalese Fulani living in the River region up North, according to Cheikh Hamidou Kane the celebrated author of the novel Ambiguous Adventure), is a household name and a highly respected public figure in Senegal, all over West Africa, in South Lebanon and even at Buckingham Palace, among other places in the world.
During his military career, General Niang played a key role in the UN peacekeeping missions involving the Senegalese armed forces, primarily in South Lebanon where, because of his action and stance, all Lebanese leaders held him in high respect.
For the civilian part of his career, General Niang successfully led the Senegalese Observatoire National des Elections (Onel), where he closely
collaborated with a particularly brilliant, professional and honest Senegalese academic, Babacar Kante (law Professor at University Gaston Berger of Saint Louis, Senegal). Subsequently, he was appointed Minister of the Interior in the Senegalese government, before wrapping up his public life with an ambassadorial post and presenting his letters of accreditation to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
The panel around General Mamadou Niang featured other distinguished Senegalese: Mr Augustin Tine, Senegalese Minister of the Armed Forces (who chaired the panel), General Abdoulaye Fall, Chief of General Staff (Senegalese armed forces), law professor Babacar Kante, retired General Ibrahima Gabar Diop (Senegalese army), Hamidou Dia, philosophy professor, writer and advisor to the Senegalese president of the republic.
General Niang’s biography also sheds light on many events and developments relating to security, politics, and peace keeping, as demonstrated by the range of issues discussed both by panelists and other speakers from the audience, which numbered 234 people.