Aims of the Rift Valley Forum

The Rift Valley Forum for Research, Policy and Local Knowledge, previously the Nairobi Forum, was established in 2012 to provide a new space for critical discussion of political, economic and social issues in Eastern and Central Africa. The Forum is a venue for dispassionate examination of contested terrain, where researchers, practitioners, officials and activists–from the region and beyond–can meet on equal terms. The Forum programme includes the Horn, East Africa, Central Africa and the Sudans. Besides the Nairobi programme, Forum meetings have been held in Mogadishu and Hargeysa.

Historical Background

The Forum sponsors research, convenes meetings with public figures, and organizes lectures, workshops, and seminars. These events are the occasion for debate between different constituencies, where insights derived from social research and local forms of understanding are applied to policy and practice. Some Forum events are public; others take place with invited participants only. Major public events are recorded and released as podcasts.

The Forum publishes research papers and briefings under the RVI imprint. These can be downloaded free from the Institute website. The papers address current social, political, economic, and environmental issues in the crisis zones of the Horn and Eastern Africa.

The inaugural event of the Forum was ‘A Somali Spring?’, a panel discussion with Somali activists and international researchers on the prospects for a post-transition Somalia. Since this first meeting the Forum has organised over forty events in Nairobi and elsewhere, including a workshop on social resilience and development in Somalia, a public report by international observers on Somaliland’s district council elections, and a seminar examining approaches to state-building in Somalia, held in collaboration with the Life and Peace Institute. The Institute has published over twenty briefings and meeting reports based on Forum events.

Events in 2014 have included seminars, conferences, and book launches on themes of policy and practice, rights and representation, culture and heritage, and new regional economies. Forum events take place at various venues.

During 2015, the Nairobi Forum transitioned into the Rift Valley Forum. The thematic focus of the Forum was revised to reflect its broader geographical coverage in eastern and central Africa, while continuing to work on the Horn of Africa and the Sudans. Since January 2015, the Forum has held over a hundred public events, conducted a number of original studies were undertaken and organized multiple training events have been organized. 


See for details of upcoming public events, or write to

As part of a series of forums to mark RVI’s 20th anniversary, the Rift Valley Forum will host a webinar on 11 November to explore the environmental, economic, social and political consequences of climate change on countries and peoples of this region

This RVI Forum will discuss the current situation following the military coup, whether a military dictatorship is inevitable and the possible implications of it on domestic affairs and international support.

On 14th October 2021, the Rift Valley Institute in partnership with the Heinrich Boll Foundation and The Elephant will host its last elections series webinar to discuss lessons the region can learn from voting as a means of democratisation, as well as what needs to be done to secure a long-term democratic trajectory through elections.


On 9 June 2021, the Rift Valley Institute invites will launch its latest report —Turkey and the Gulf States in the Horn of Africa: Fluctuating dynamics of engagement, investment and influence.  This report examines how, and with what consequences, the Gulf states and Turkey have deepened their engagement in the Horn of Africa. What is…


On 27 April 2021, the Rift Valley Forum in partnership with Heinrich Boll Foundation and The Elephant will host a panel of experts and young activists to discuss the upcoming elections in Somaliland. 

On 16 March 2021, the Rift Valley Forum, in collaboration with the British Institute in Eastern Africa, will launch the book, Making and Breaking Peace in Sudan and South Sudan, authored by practitioners and scholars who examine the question of which and whose ideas of peace and peacemaking were pursued in the Sudans and how they fared…

On 20 January, the Rift Valley Institute launched a new book by former US diplomat, Elizabeth Shackelford, The Dissent Channel: American Diplomacy in a Dishonest Age. The book documents Shackelford's experience in South Sudan in 2013–14 and exposes the costs of a longstanding trend of impunity for injustice, and the role of the…

On 17 December 2020, the Rift Valley Institute in partnership with Heinrich Böll Foundation hosted the fourth webinar in its elections series to discuss these issues as well as security and the participation of women in electoral processes in Somalia.

The Rift Valley Institute and Juba in The Making will be hosting a discussion of the new film, And The Country Still Needs Us: A story of the chiefs of South Sudan. The conversation will focus on the making of the film and key issues that it raises around traditional justice and the absence of women’s voices in traditional authorities.