The Social Science Research Council’s African Peacebuilding Network (APN) recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Ibrahim Bangura, an APN Alumnus (IRG 2016) and lecturer at the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. The interview was conducted at the International Studies Association’s 2017 Annual Convention, on February 23, 2017, in Baltimore, MD. It has been edited for length and clarity.

APN Team: Thank you so much for being here with us today. Could you start by telling us about your research, particularly your APN-supported project?

Dr. Ibrahim Bangura: Thank you as well. My main research interest areas are the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of ex-combatants; security sector reform; and youth-related violence. I have been working on this for almost fourteen years in different parts of the world. My APN-supported research focused on Guinea, looking specifically at young people and governance-related issues there, as well as issues related to the marginalization, exclusion, and infantilization of young people and the implications of these for Guinean society.

That sounds very interesting. Did you find that the APN’s support affected your research in any way?

I have never been part of a process like that which I went through with the APN. It provides a unique opportunity for training young researchers across the continent. The possibility of interacting with some of the best in the field was quite helpful for me and has provided incredible opportunities in terms of learning from the very best, and at the same time, the opportunity to meet and work with young researchers across the continent. This brought me both a sense of joy and satisfaction and created a space that never existed in my world before—a space to meet, interact, learn, share. It also helped with the question of sustainability, the ability to continue brilliant friendships and ask questions across the continent and to reach out and meet whenever you are in one part of the continent where there’s a grantee that you have met at an APN workshop or event. That has helped me tremendously.

It sounds like a really collaborative environment.

Absolutely, it’s very special, which is why I think other researchers should be provided with the kinds of opportunities that I have benefited from. The APN and SSRC are doing a fantastic job in this direction.

Thank you so much. Do you have any advice for early-career researchers who are just starting their careers or on applying for a APN grant?

I think African researchers should try to explore more, to look for opportunities, and to reach out and not just be convinced that there are no opportunities out there. This is why I am very happy with the kind of publicity that the APN has given the grants that they provide, trying to reach out to the most remote and isolated of researchers in the continent. These young people should be brave to take up these opportunities, and they should seek advice and guidance from researchers that are more experienced than they are, in terms of how they shape their applications.

When they get to the process of being trained by the APN, I am sure that the fears and the doubts that they had will mostly go away, because—as I said earlier—they will be meeting with the very best people who have experience and expertise in helping to shape young researchers. I am also willing to help young researchers in the continent to face their fears and doubts and overcome them.

In most cases, those of us who have benefited from grants like the APN should do as much as we possibly can in terms of identifying original research and supporting those researchers who are out there doing it. I think it’s a two-way street; the APN has supported us and we have a responsibility to continue reaching out to develop collaborative efforts that will help research grow in the continent.

That brings us to our last question, which is what research are you currently working on or interested in pursuing further?

At the moment I am studying youth-related violence—the evolution of gangs and cliques in African cities. It’s becoming quite a major issue, and becoming quite dangerous because we are seeing a lot of violence spreading in our cities and our towns. I want to understand the root causes of this, as well as to understand the pull and push factors. I am looking into how we could go about dealing with challenges like youth-related violence in the continent. I intend to reach out to a number of researchers, including young researchers and those who have been working in the field for quite a while, to see how we can collaborate and try to collectively come up with recommendations as to how to best overcome the challenges faced by these emerging issues.

Looking forward to seeing more of your research be published. Thank you so much.

Most welcome. Thank you.

Ibrahim Bangura is a lecturer at the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. He has worked extensively in the fields of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants, security sector reform, and sustainable livelihoods. Dr. Bangura holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History, a master’s degree in Gender Studies from the University of Sierra Leone, a master’s degree in International Development Studies from the University of Amsterdam, and a doctoral degree in Economics from the Leipzig Graduate School of Management, Germany. Dr. Bangura’s main research interests are in the fields of youth and peacebuilding in Africa, DDR of ex-combatants, and security sector reform. His 2016 publications include: “We Can’t Eat Peace: Youth, Sustainable Livelihoods and the Peacebuilding Process in Sierra Leone,” in the Peacebuilding and Development Journal of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego; and “Assessing the Impact of Orthodox Security Sector Reform in Sierra Leone” and “The Gradual Emergence of Second Generation SSR in Sierra Leone,” published by the Center for Security Governance in Canada. He is a 2016 recipient of the Social Science Research Council’s African Peacebuilding Network’s Individual Research Grant.

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