Transformed context requires new research focus

Newsletter Editorial, December 2010, by Cyril Obi

The remaking of the post-Cold War world and processes of globalisation opened up new opportunities for Africa’s resurgence in the context of an interlinked and interdependent world.

Even then, the continent did not escape from internal popular pressures for political change, socioeconomic justice and democratisation arising from decades of authoritarian rule and economic crisis.

It was within the context of such internal demands for change, in combination with external pressures that signalled lack of support for one-party or military rule, that Africa underwent political transitions, sometimes peaceful, but in other cases where orderly transition was subverted, some countries careened down the path of crises, and bloody civil wars. Since the turn of the century, most such conflicts have ended, replaced by different shades of political and constitutional reforms, and low-intensity conflict. The balance in Africa has clearly shifted in the direction of political change, electoral democracy and post-conflict peace.

The foregoing set the background for the focus of the cluster, which was established in 2009, in the context of the repositioning of research on Africa at the Nordic Africa Institute. An inception workshop was held in Uppsala on 28-29 October 2010. This workshop represented the formal launching of the research cluster on conflict, security and democratic transformation, and presented its researchers and their projects to stakeholders from the Nordic countries, Europe, the United States, the Caribbean and Africa.

The discussions at the workshop reached a consensus on the need for the research focus that would directly and indirectly engage with the scope for accountability, security and development within the context of democratic transformation and peace in Africa. They also emphasised the need to pay attention to greater harmonization of projects within the cluster, in ways that address issues related to the principles and processes of conflict resolution, elections and political reform, gender, reconstruction and the role of the state.

Equally relevant was the need to explore the role of international actors in the increased transnationalisation, militarisation and securitisation of various countries and regions of Africa, and engage in inter-cluster collaboration.

As the cluster and the Institute move forward, both will refine and consolidate their research agendas in the context of internal and external changes, and the ongoing transformations in Africa – in pursuit of the actualization of NAI’s vision of “African People Shaping their Own Future”.

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