I was awarded the African Peacebuilding Network (APN) Individual Research Grant in 2016 and the APN Book Manuscript Completion Grant in 2017. Both APN fellowships contributed immensely to my professional and personal development in ways that changed my whole perception of the world. The APN’s training workshops presented an incredible opportunity to learn to apply new research tools, critical reasoning, and key building blocks towards understanding both the relevant theories and practical aspects of working in the field of conflict resolution and peace. The skills I acquired were tangible, actionable, and practical. Meeting and interacting with peers and African scholars from diverse disciplines, who possess extraordinary levels of expertise in their disciplines, has greatly benefited my peacebuilding research. My peers represent an outstanding diverse and multicultural group and have very different perspectives. I heard some of the most critical insights and creative solutions to challenges in the field by interacting with my peers during APN workshops and gained additional knowledge about the various local mechanisms of conflict resolution in various African countries.
My experience with the APN has been highly rewarding. I was very fortunate to have been awarded the APN Book Manuscript Completion Grant (APN BMCG) in 2017. My book entitled War-Time Care Work and Peacebuilding in Africa: The Forgotten One was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2020. The book is based on my APN-supported research in Darfur, Sudan. The book provides a nuanced understanding of an often-neglected aspect of armed conflicts, namely the everyday structures that sustain lives during crises and, specifically, care-work provided by women. It showcases the “invisible” work of women as key protagonists and underscores their role as knowledge producers in the context of conflict.
APN fellows are a diverse and unique group of African scholars. Life takes each of us down many paths, but what we all share in common is a desire to make peace a reality in our continent. We have stayed in contact for years following the completion of our program-supported projects. My collaboration with my peers contributed to the award of the APN Collaborative Working Group Research Fellowship (CWGF) in 2018. This CWGF offered an exciting opportunity for me to foster and promote my collaboration with outstanding researchers from Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso, under the leadership of Prof. Shola Omotola, the current deputy vice-chancellor (administration) of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Nigeria. Our research project entitled, “Herders-Farmers Conflicts in Africa: Historical Trajectories, ‘New’ Issues, Responses and Lessons for Peacebuilding” was completed in 2020. We are currently working on publishing our research outputs as a group and as individuals. In addition, I am currently collaborating with a member of the CWG: Dr. Abosede Babatunde a former APN IRG grantee, from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria.
The APN has given me the opportunity to participate in a high-level roundtable on “Governance Issues in the Multi-Stakeholder Responses to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa” held in collaboration with the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I also had another opportunity to present a part of my APN-supported research findings to, and network with, many experts who are working in the field of women/gender studies from around the world at the 8th edition of the International Forum on “Mediterranean Women” on the theme “Women’s Voices in the Mediterranean and Africa: Movements, Feminisms, and Resistance to Extremism,” which took place in Morocco in May 2017.
My engagement with the APN enhanced my scholarly and writing skills which I have also applied to my teaching and research activities, among other areas. I have also developed curricula and designed courses aimed at facilitating peacebuilding-related education. The data collected during my APN-supported fieldwork has provided material for my writing and helped to increase the quality and amount of my academic publications. As part of my engagement with the broader APN network, I contributed a chapter on, “Researching Women, Unpaid Care Work, and Peacebuilding in Darfur” to an edited book by Ismail Rashid and Amy Niang (also a former APN grantee), entitled, Researching Peacebuilding in Africa: Reflections on Theory, Fieldwork and Context, published by Routledge in 2020.
I remain grateful to the APN for its commitment to enhancing the quality and visibility of independent African peacebuilding research through support for the development of African researchers. APN fellowships have boosted my profile as a researcher and opened up several opportunities for me both within and outside my home country of Sudan. One such opportunity outside Sudan was the international award after a highly competitive selection process of the Rotary Peace Scholarship to attend a Professional Development Course on “Peace and Conflict Resolution” at Rotary Peace Centre, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok 2018.
As APN alumni from war-torn countries that saw brutal wars and atrocities, I and many of my peers have been equipped by the program to be change/peacemakers, and thus we have the responsibility to help promote and build sustainable, equitable peace through our diverse endeavors. I firmly believe that all voices need to be heard in order to find innovative solutions to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace in Africa. I am of the view that APN alumni still have a huge contribution to make when it comes to responding to the new challenges to peace on the continent, particularly following the COVID-19 pandemic. The APN has been and continues to be a pivotal space for me and all my peers and colleagues where they can come together to share their ideas, knowledge, experiences, and contributions to make Africa a better and more peaceful place.
The APN’s 10thanniversary presents an opportunity to review the past and also look forward with hope towards a brighter future. The APN is in a unique position to promote peace-related research collaboration among African academic, research, and policy institutions. Such research partnerships and collaboration will provide the opportunity to expand the roles of the APN and existing networks of researchers involved in research within these institutions and among the broader peacebuilding community. It would strengthen the links already established by APN fellows and alumni, contribute to institutional research that consolidates scholarly networks, and increase collaborative research output among African institutions working in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict resolution.
Last, and perhaps most importantly, a great institution is more than just its reputation. It is about the people who make up the institution. The true transformative component of APN is based on the team and its leadership. Specifically, the APN director Prof. Cyril Obi has been and continues to be incredibly supportive. His engagement and approachability facilitate mentorship and collegiality that have made the APN family such a pleasure to be a part of. The APN program team is genuinely very supportive and always available to discuss and provide insights regarding the program activities and opportunities for growth. Most importantly, we the fellows—past and present—feel like a part of a great family and that is what has stood out the most for me.