As a young female academic, I have always looked forward to any opportunity to interact with colleagues in my field. The African Peacebuilding Network (APN) offered me this opportunity on a platter of gold. I am pleased to say that the APN fellowship is one of the best things that happened to me in my academic career. I was awarded the APN Individual Research Fellowship (IRF) in June 2021 and completed it successfully in March 2022. The fellowship offered me a wonderful opportunity to deeply understand peace and conflict resolution. In terms of developing a deep sense of conviviality and commitment to knowledge production, networking, and policy engagement, the APN marked an unforgettable milestone in my academic trajectory.

My APN-supported project on “Ethnographic study of language as a tool of conflict mediation in Kaduna state, Nigeria” investigated the (usually overlooked) role that language plays as a tool of peace communication, particularly in mitigating conflict and deploying its positive aspects in the pursuit of peace in Kaduna State, Nigeria. I drew my case studies from the Hausa, Atyapp, and Pullo languages, which are widely spoken in Northern and Southern Kaduna, Nigeria. The study argues from the ethnographic perspective that habits of thinking and speaking in ways that feed into violence are learned and deployed through language and culture. Working within the framework of Nonviolent Communication Theory, I analyzed the relationships between language, culture, conflict, and violence.

I was also able to identify linguistic keys that enhance social relationships amongst members of Kaduna State communities and those capable of damaging them. I identified the language mediation techniques deployed by Kaduna State people in conflict prevention and conflict resolution. I recommended and advocated for the injection or mainstreaming of peace linguistics and its key concepts into the state schools’ curriculum to help inculcate the values and culture of peace among Kaduna State youths.

Aside from providing me with an excellent opportunity to learn about and develop new research methodologies, the APN fellowship provided training opportunities for sharpening my analytical skills and equipped me with the confidence I require to become an outstanding international scholar. I am now better able to develop my writing style and express myself more concisely and accurately. In addition, the fellowship afforded me the opportunity to acquaint myself with peacebuilding literature and current trends in academic writing.

Networking Opportunities

During the period of my fellowship, I was able to interact with peers from Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, and Ethiopia. I also networked with mentors like Professor Rita Abrahamsen, Professor Dauda Abubakar, Professor Miles Williams, and Professor Temitope Oriola from various universities across the globe.

During my fieldwork and policy engagements in Nigeria, I was able to interact with the high and mighty in Kaduna State and the country at large. If it were not for the support provided by the APN program, I doubt I would have had the privilege to meet one-on-one with royalty exemplified by the Emir of Zazzau, HRH Ambassador Ahmad Nuhu Bamalli in Kaduna State, Nigeria. I also had the honor of holding interview sessions with the Emir of Jamaa, HRH Alhaji Muhammadu Isa Muhammadu Kafanchan, in Southern, Kaduna State, Nigeria, and the Agwam Bajju Nuhu Bature Achi, of Zangon Kataf, in Kaduna State, Nigeria.

Other distinguished persons I interviewed include Pastor James Wuye and Imam Ashafa, the Inter-Faith Mediation Center Coordinators for Kaduna State; Dr. Saleh B. Momalle, Kaduna State Peace Commission (KSPC) vice-chairman; Hajiya Khadija Hawaja Gambo, the Permanent Commissioner for Peace; and Mr. Samuel Aruwa, Commissioner for Kaduna State Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs.

The Outputs of the Research Project

On the 26th of November, I presented a conference paper from this study at the 2021 African Studies Association (ASA)/Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY) presidential conference. By December 30, 2021, an article was extracted from my report and published in the Neptune Prime monthly magazine.1Hauwa Mohammed Sani, “Establishing Peace Through Language,” Neptune Prime, December 2021, p.19, https://neptuneprime.com.ng/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/NEPTUNE-PRIME-_December-e-copy.pdf Another article was published in Neptune Prime newspaper on January 6, 2022.2Hauwa Mohammed Sani, “Language, Culture Identity and Conflict in Kaduna State, Neptune Prime, January 6, 2022, https://neptuneprime.com.ng/2022/01/language-culture-identity-and-conflict-in-kaduna-state-by-hauwa-mohammed-sani-phd/ On the 9th of February, I presented a paper based on my research findings at the Faculty of Arts Seminar Series at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) and received a lot of feedback from my colleagues. Three senior colleagues from the social sciences and humanities reviewed the paper. Following this, an essay titled, “Language, conflict mitigation and mediation processes in Kaduna state, Nigeria” was published in Kujenga Amani on the 2nd of March 2022.3Hauwa Mohammed Sani, “Language, Conflict Mitigation and Mediation Processes in Kaduna State, Nigeria,” Kujenga Amani, March 2, 2022, https://kujenga-amani.ssrc.org/2022/03/02/language-conflict-mitigation-and-mediation-processes-in-kaduna-state-nigeria/

Some Benefits from Workshops I Attended During the Fellowship

From the APN’s virtual workshops, I learned how to better refocus and streamline my research questions and build my research arguments. I also modified my research methodology,  broadened my theoretical perspective, and redefined my scope and analyses with inputs from my mentor. The workshop also provided many opportunities for cross-fertilization of ideas with my small group members. I gained a lot, particularly from a comparative perspective and the theoretical and conceptual approaches to projects.

Opportunities

Thanks to the training from the APN in sharpening my proposal-writing skills, I was selected as Co-Lead Researcher in the Conflict Research Network West Africa (CORN West Africa) research project on, “State of Peace in Nigeria (SoPiN II).” The project was funded by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) on April 11, 2022. I initially got the information about the Call for Proposals (CFP) for the CORN West Africa poster presentations at the UNU-WIDER Development Conference in Finland from the APN, which I applied for but did not make the final selection. Based on my profile, they invited me to apply for the (SoPiNII) research project opportunity in Kaduna State, after which I was nominated to work with the CORN West Africa project. I am confident that the CORN research project will build upon my APN experience. I also received the Future Africa Research Leadership post-doctoral fellowship (FAR LeaF) award for 2022-2024 from the Future Africa Institute of the University of Pretoria, South Africa to conduct research on “COVID-19: Misinformation and Pseudoscience in Northern Nigeria.” Apart from this, I have submitted manuscripts based on my APN-supported research to peer-reviewed journals for publication.

The APN in the Next Decade

I envision the APN growing and becoming one of the largest African peacebuilding research programs. I also hope that the program will engage fellows in more collaborative interdisciplinary peacebuilding research projects and establish an impactful peer-reviewed peacebuilding journal where fellows and alumni can publish their articles. It will be helpful if the APN could create and fund residential fellowships where African scholars can reflect, write, and meet with likeminded scholars to further develop their research and writing skills, conduct more socially responsive research, and engage in publications that would further establish them as internationally-visible experts in the field of African peacebuilding.

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