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The Africa Working Group


The Africa Working Group (AWG) for conflict and peace studies was founded in the summer of 2004 within the Department of Conflict Resolution Studies (DCRS) at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Fort Lauderdale-Davie, Florida.

Since its envisioned conception, the AWG continues as a joint project between faculty, students, and alumni interested in the subject of peace and conflict studies on the African continent.

AWG'S Motto

Our motto is anchored on three fundamental principles- -Accompaniment (walking together), Engagement (learning together), and Progress (moving forward together).

  • ACCOMPANIMENT: The AWG leadership believes that parties of a diverse background can achieve more with respect to their goals if they work alongside each other without imposing any form of supremacy on each other. Thus, AWG will promote, facilitate, and enable parties of different identity and power bases to walk together horizontally toward the achievement of specific goals, without ever endorsing or creating a vertical or hierarchical power-based relationship of domination and subordination.
  • ENGAGEMENT: The AWG leadership believes that the ultimate level of learning takes place when faculty, students and other stake holders engage in learning activities. AWG activities therefore engage the academic community with the larger community of all people to enhance understanding of conflict and the potential for peace throughout Africa.
  • PROGRESS: In the AWG leadership view, our individual endeavor should reflect our collective oneness. As the African sage says: "I am because you are; you are because we are." AWG thus will promote shared aspirations, a shared vision, and shared accomplishments.

Objectives and Mission

  1. To advance a deeper understanding through research & publication of general patterns of conflicts in contemporary Africa;
  2. To provide DCRS faculty and students with avenues outside the classroom, to critically examine & modify, wherever appropriate, the theories and models relative to social conflict now emerging in academic institutions and practices. Activities undertaken by AWG are designed to augment the DCRS degree curriculum & experience;
  3. To develop collaborative relationships with universities and related organizations in Africa regarding research and practices in social conflict and conflict resolution;
  4. To support DCRS students interested in pursuing research on critical topics in Africa, such as indigenous conflict resolution processes, resource-based conflict, and ethnic conflict;
  5. To develop a network of scholars and practitioners in the African continent, with the guidance from DCRS alumni;
  6. To provide a social support system to DCRS students and faculty by organizing social events;
  7. To organize panels and conferences on selected topics regarding conflicts in Africa;
  8. AUGMENTING THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE of all students, with particular emphasis on the needs of students from developing societies.

The AWG leadership envisions the development of an institute that will elevate the profile of the DCRS degree programs, while assisting the creation of models and theories of conflict resolution suited specifically for the African experience and conditions of conflict. The Institute will be a LEARNING COMMUNITY OF EQUALS for the enhanced understanding of all who wish to reduce, resolve, and manage conflict in Africa.

History and Background

The Africa Working Group (AWG) was started in 2004 in the Department of Conflict Resolution Studies (DCRS) of Nova Southeastern University and has gone through several major phases. From the outset, the project was conceived to be a joint project between the faculty and students who are interested in the subject of peace and conflict studies on the African continent. It is guided by two critical principles: engagement and accompaniment. The initiating imperative was perceived deficiencies in the degree curriculums in the universities in North America in addressing the needs of the students from the South and this first came up in the Conflict Resolution System Design course taught by Dr. Tuso, during the summer of 2004. There were several African students enrolled in the course, and several issues emerged which indicated some dissonance between the content of the curriculum in the degree programs at DCRS, and the social realities in Africa.

Based on these observations, Dr. Tuso suggested that the group convene a brainstorming session to explore possible solutions. The first meeting was hosted by Austin Onuoha and Jacques Koko on June 26, 2004 and the group benefited tremendously from the presence of two successful practitioners in the field of Conflict Resolution; Austin Onuoha and Joshia Osamba. Their experiences raised hopes that it would be possible to connect with conflict situations in the continent and make significant contributions toward developing new models to deal with conflicts in Africa. The new project was well received by the group which agreed on five major issues:

  1. to develop some mechanism to promote collaboration between students and faculty on research and publication.
  2. to support students on research and publication project.
  3. to collect information regarding conflict and peacemaking in Africa.
  4. to support each other in the social arena (having a fellowship on a regular basis).
  5. to meet once a month to refine and execute the above discussed plans.

There were subsequent meetings in member's houses and on the Nova campus during which the ideas were refined and developed.

In the Fall of 2004 two new faculty, who had expertise on conflicts in Africa joined DCAR: Dr. Mark Davidheiser, an anthropologist, with fieldwork experience in the Gambia, and Dr. Jean-Mathieu Essis of Ivory Coast, a political scientist, and Public Policy specialist. With their participation, three major goals were achieved including:

  1. the group was given a new name - Africa Interest Group, later changed to Africa Working Group (AWG).
  2. listserv for group was developed by the late Cody Smith.
  3. coordinating committees comprised of six persons (three faculty and three students) was formed.

The three faculty (mentioned above), and three students were elected to run the committees. In the winter of 2007, the AWG developed its own website, with the technical skills and time donated by Robert Keller. Following suggestions by Dr. Essis, the Africa Working Group was institutionalized, and its activities incorporated into the functions of DCAR as part of its mission.

During the academic year 2005/06, the Africa Working Group sponsored guest lectures, faculty, and student lectures/presentations. The AWG began to co-sponsor other lectures and conferences initiated by other units within NSU. (Examples include; the conference on the genocide in Rwanda). There have been challenges in the life of the group, but the Africa Working Group has evolved into the most visible faculty/student joint project within DCAR, and it attracts attraction from audiences across academic disciplines and schools within NSU.


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