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Pioneer class graduates from Africa University’s peace institute

 


 

June 3, 2004  

 

By Andra Stevens*

 

MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — Africa University made history May 29 by awarding the first post-graduate diplomas and master’s degrees in peace and governance to young people on the continent of Africa.

Fourteen young women and men from Burundi, Kenya, Mozambique and Zimbabwe were the first to graduate from the university’s pan-African Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance.

Launched in 2001, the institute brings together a range of partners, including United Nations agencies, nongovernmental organizations and foundations, to empower civil society and to increase Africa’s capacity for conflict resolution and peace building.

“I love the fact that there were young women as well as men,” said John McDonald, a former U.S. ambassador to Korea and head of Multi-Track Diplomacy, a Washington-based organization that trains young people in mediation and other skills. “That does not happen very often in the field of conflict resolution. It is the women who are the peace-builders. … They get it before the men do, and so I’m glad that they’re represented.”

“It’s a tremendous achievement,” said Professor Walter Kamba, a member of the institute’s international advisory board and chair of its academic committee. “…Two years ago, this was an idea we were working on, and now we have these graduates.”

 

The institute’s mission is to serve as a forum for debate, training and research for leadership development on a continent facing governance and development challenges.

Another advisory board member, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, described discussions with the graduating class and other students in the program as humbling.

“Africans ultimately must take responsibility for the solutions to their problems,” said Gambari, the U.N. under-secretary-general and special adviser on Africa. “That’s what NEPAD (the New Partnership for Africa’s Development) is all about. … These graduates are a start in that direction. They want to own the problems, they want to own the definition of the priorities and the solutions, but also they want to work with others.”

“Not one of the graduates talked about what this qualification was going to do for them personally, but rather of what they could do for others with it,” said the Rev. Jerome King Del Pino, top executive at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry. “They made very conscious decisions to choose this course for their life’s endeavor, and there was no small amount of sacrifice indicated.”

After months of planning and diverse contributions to the content and delivery of the 18-month program, Anderson Shankanga, the institute’s interim director, said its implementation was smooth and effective. He cited the program’s external linkages, through which it delivered occasional lectures from distinguished Africans and attachment opportunities for its students.

“Each time we had a personality from outside, there was a lot of excitement as students got the opportunity to hear what these leaders of business and government are confronting on a day-to-day basis and to relate the theoretical to practical concerns and experiences,” Shankanga said.

The first class included four people graduating from Africa University for the second time. Generose Minani of Burundi and Moses Semwayo of Zimbabwe were candidates for the postgraduate diploma in peace and governance, and Henry Otieno of Kenya and Anastacio Chembeze of Mozambique received masters’ degrees in peace and governance.

 

“As one of the first to hold this qualification from Africa University, I’m also well aware that the program’s reputation will grow from my efforts and those of my fellow graduates,” Otieno said.

Chembeze, a United Methodist church worker, received his bachelor of divinity degree from Africa University in 2002. A desire for an active role in helping improve governance in Mozambique brought him back to the university to acquire new skills, with financial support from the Graça Machel Foundation. Chembeze won the Emilio J. M. De Carvalho prize for demonstrating the best leadership potential in the graduating class.

“I feel I can make some contribution in my country by working within and outside the church to bring people together,” Chembeze said. “If we have a very vibrant civil society, it will make an impact in the governance process.”

 

The institute is accepting applications for its classes beginning in August. It offers full-time study leading to the award of either a post-graduate diploma or a master’s degree in peace and governance. Students may choose to specialize in peace and conflict management, leadership in Africa, or governance and civil society.

*Stevens is Africa University’s director of information.

News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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