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.
(left to right) Abel Amado, and panelists Wendy Wilson-Fall, Abu Bakarr Bah, and Janet Johnson
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
(left to right) WARA board members, Pearl Robinson and Wendy Wilson-Fall. Professor Fall was among the panelists at the 9/27 event
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