The following is an interview with Aloysius Ngalim, a 2013 APN grantee. It explores his experience as a grantee, including the impact of APN training workshops and networking opportunities on his work as an African researcher and teacher. Dr. Ngalim explains how the program has also contributed to his capacity to introduce new research methods and literature to his students, broadened his thinking on African peacebuilding and the design of a new graduate course in his department, and inspired him to publish the results of his research in high quality, globally visible outlets.
Can you briefly share your experience as a member of the first cohort of APN grantees (2013) with us? How has the APN grant influenced your work as a teacher and researcher in Africa?
My experience with the African Peacebuilding Network (APN) is an inspiring and educational one. I had the opportunity to meet and interact with experts and fellow African scholars from diverse scholarly backgrounds from all over Africa. The APN workshops helped me to further develop my research skills and deepened my appreciation and understanding of the conceptual framework and practice of peacebuilding in Africa. The program exposed me to a more realistic and hands-on approach to research methods, particularly the importance of using appropriate interdisciplinary research tools in the context of Africa. Previously, most of my work had been largely academic with little or no policy component. However, that changed as I came to realize the significance of linking research findings to policy and practice. With reference to my current research, its policy potential is enormous; and I intend to continue to explore this fully. Apart from contributing to my own professional development, some of the knowledge gained has been passed on to my students. Students in my department are better able to use and apply research techniques to elicit spontaneous responses and unfiltered data.
Did your participation in APN training workshops and activities influence the decision of your department to start a graduate program on conflict, peace and security? What role did you play in the design of the program’s courses?
Although the graduate program was designed by a committee established by the Department of History in recognition of the need to integrate issues related to conflict, peace and security into the academic curriculum, my experience as an APN Alumni has been useful. The training I received during the workshops, and the experience gathered during the fieldwork for my APN research project informed the suggestions and inputs I made into the work of the departmental committee tasked with designing the graduate course on Conflict, Peace and Security. I played an important role in the selection of the key concepts underpinning the courses; including the learning objectives/goals, expected outcomes, and identification of relevant literature.
Do you think that belonging to the APN’s Network of scholars, practitioners and partner organizations has been useful to your professional development? Do you envisage a situation in which the network can contribute to the growth of the new program within your department, how?
Belonging to the APN’s network of scholars, practitioners and partner organizations has been very useful in my professional development. The APN opened doors to meet people such as scholars, practitioners and colleagues from other countries with whom I share common interests. Over the years, I have moved from the initial phase of being a recipient of APN funding, to someone that shares a broad vision on African peacebuilding. This is because APN’s network is open-minded and inclusive. It has fostered a relationship built around sharing knowledge and skills in teaching, research, publishing and the dissemination of research findings on issues related to African peacebuilding. The APN’s commitment to facilitating the visibility of African scholarship and the integration of African knowledge into global policy discussions inspired me to work towards publishing highly rated scholarly publications. As a step towards disseminating the results of my research and sharing them with a global audience, a paper based on my APN research project on conflict mediation will be published in the African Peacebuilding Working Paper Series (No. 9), and another paper, on “Post Boundary Adjustment (Re)settlement”, is under review for publication in an international peer-reviewed journal, the African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review.
The APN can contribute to the growth of the new program within my department in the university of Buea by assisting us with the following: providing access to the research products/publications of APN Alumni/grantees/partner organizations and other sources (electronic or paper based published resources), supporting or complementing research methods and curriculum training workshops for graduate students and staff, and providing opportunities for colleagues to participate in APN organized conferences, policy roundtables/dialogues.
The APN is now into its fourth cohort of grantees, how do you as an APN Alumni see the impact of the program on peacebuilding in Africa?
The APN as it was created in 2012 is a platform working hard to nurture original ideas and innovative knowledge and practices for sustainable peace in Africa. It is a laudable initiative that all people interested in peace advocacy, research, and scholarship should belong to as well as support. Over the past three years, alumni have drawn upon the knowledge, skills, vision and commitment gained from the APN to serve effectively and creatively in a wide range of peacebuilding-related roles in their institutions, societies and in the wider international community.
Aloysius Nyuymengka Ngalim is a 2013 APN grant holder and holds a PhD in History from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is currently a Senior Lecturer, Department of History, at the University of Buea, Cameroon. Dr. Ngalim has been a Fulbright Fellow and member of scholarly groups such as the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and the African Peacebuilding Network (APN) of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC). His research interests focus broadly on issues of conflict and mediation in Africa and the developing world, as well as agricultural and development history. He has published scholarly papers in peer-reviewed national and international journals.