Coping with Difference in a Foreign Land

Second Equator Peace Academy, December 5-19, 2014

This is a call to all interested parties to participate in the second Academy program which will run from December 5-19, 2014. This year’s Academy will be organized in Uganda.  Under the theme Coping with Difference in a Foreign Land the program’s aim is to confront the problems faced by refugees and internally displaced persons in Eastern Africa and elsewhere in the world.   Our academy employs an open, dialogic, experiential, and reflective methodology together with pragmatic solution-based learning to analyze contemporary conflicts in the region. Our goal is to understand and overcome the type of social segregation and violence that have so often characterized relations between different communities in the region of Eastern Africa.

Since the early 1980s, when refugee studies emerged as a field of academic inquiry, there has been substantial literature as well as policy attention on the phenomena of trans-boundary displacements and forced migrations, both within and outside national boundaries. Many people who are displaced, or become “trapped,” in the context of diverse humanitarian crises end up living outside existing legal, policy, and operational frameworks for the protection of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Indeed, many states fail to provide refugees with the most fundamental of human rights.

While the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Article 12) asserts the right of every individual to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of a state provided he or she abides by the law and, when persecuted, to seek and obtain asylum in other countries in accordance with the laws of those countries and international conventions, these rights are often not upheld. Today, as millions of Africans continue to live as refugees and/or in forced migration status as a result of long-term conflicts, they are often denied the most basic of rights and life chances. Conflicts such as the two-decade-long insurgency in northern Uganda, the half-century turmoil in southern Sudan (now South Sudan) and Sudan, the older civil wars in Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burundi, and Rwanda, the unresolved political crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Central African Republic, and Somalia have left millions bereft of the rights and freedoms enshrined both in the African Charter and international customary law.

The recent report by the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) of April 2014 points out that of nearly a quarter of a million South Sudanese who have fled to neighbouring countries, Uganda has taken the largest number (around 87,000). This number is in addition to the nearly 200,000 refugees from other countries (Burundi, DRC, Rwanda, and Somalia) documented by the UNHCR country office and living in Uganda, as of mid-2013.  Despite the best efforts of the Ugandan government to provide adequate assistance to the refugees, these forcibly displaced people continue to be prevented from deploying creative coping mechanisms as well as durable solutions to their plight.

It is against this backdrop that the 2014 EPA, under the auspices of the Department of Good Governance and Peace Studies of Uganda Martyrs University, looks to convene a stimulating two-week learn-together experiential school in the quest for an in-depth understanding of an adequate, evidence-based response to the phenomenon of forced displacement currently being witnessed both in the capital, Kampala, and the country’s western region.

The EPA is an affiliate of CEDAR, whose programs combine pluralistic perspectives on religious thought with social scientific research on tolerance, civil society and an open, dialogic, approach to pedagogic practice. Its goal is to transform both the theoretical models and concrete practices through which religious orientations and secular models of politics and society engage one another. As with other CEDAR affiliates, the EPA program is centered on academic courses together with intense processes of group building and the construction of working relationships across religious and ethnic identities. Its didactic goals are social as well as cognitive.

Deadline for Applications was August 30, 2014. Applications are no longer being accepted.

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