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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

The field course season in Eastern and Central Africa

More than forty specialists on Eastern and Central African history, politics, economics and culture taught on the RVI’s annual field courses this year. Journalists and activists joined academics, humanitarians, and policy-makers for three intensive one-week events covering the Horn of Africa, the Sudans, and the Great Lakes. The courses took place in Kenya and Burundi between May and July. 

The Director of Studies for the Horn of Africa Course was Ken Menkhaus. Joining him among the fourteen other teachers were Dereje Feyissa, an anthropologist who works on the Ethiopia-Sudan borderlands, RVI Horn of Africa and East Africa Regional Director Mark Bradbury, the distinguished historian of Ethiopia Christopher ClaphamTerrence Lyons of George Mason University, University of Pennsylvania historian Lee Cassanelli, and peace-building specialist Marleen Renders. The course took place in Lamu, Kenya from 31 May to 6 June and covered Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Somaliland, Puntland, and northern Kenya. Participants also enjoyed a dhow trip to the ruins on Takwa island. RVI also sponsored a public event in partnership with the National Museums of Kenya in Lamu Fort: ‘LAPSSET: Good for Lamu? Good for the Horn?’ The panel comprised Jason Mosley (Oxford Analytics), Mwalim Badi (Lamu Conservation Trust), Mr Baraketch (National Environmental Management Authority) and Mohamed Mwanji (National Museums of Kenya, Lamu Museum), and was was chaired by Mark Bradbury.

On the Sudan and South Sudan Course, led by Sharath Srinivasan, participants listened to lectures on geography, history, recent political developments and culture. Teachers included the Sudanese scholar and activist Nada Ali, historians Cherry Leonardi and Douglas Johnson, political blogger Magdi el Gizouli and anthropologists Jok Madut Jok and John Ryle. This year’s Sudan and South Sudan Course was held in Lamu following the Horn of Africa Course. Security incidents on the mainland cast a shadow on this year’s course: scores of people were killed in a series of attacks on communities in Lamu County, linked to al-Shabaab, the Somali terrorist organisation.

The Great Lakes Course, held on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Bujumbura, Burundi from 28 June to 4 July, was directed, as in previous years, by DRC researcher Jason Stearns, with Emily Paddon as Deputy Director. Teachers included Emmanuel de Mérode, Director of the Virunga National Park in the DRC, Rwandan NGO director Assumpta Mugiraneza, Michael Kavanagh of Bloomberg News, DRC scholars Koen Vlassenroot and Jean Omasombo, Cambridge professor Devon Curtis, and Filip Reyntjens of the University of Antwerp. (The Great Lakes course was conducted in English and French, with simultaneous translation.) Participants enjoyed performances by Rwandan comedians and a night of Congolese music. As in previous years, the RVI football team lost to the Desperados, a Burundian football team.

Applications for the 2015 courses will open in December 2014.

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