Monday, May 30, 2016

Back Where it All Started

It's good to be back in the easy going paradise that is Kampala, where the sunsets are as intensely golden as the hillsides are green. There are few things better in my book than relaxing with friends on the veranda at my favorite Kampala guest house, a Nile Special in hand, watching the day turn to night here in the cradle of East Africa. In many ways, my journey to Georgetown began here two years ago when I was an intern with the Refugee Law Project, researching and participating in various transitional justice initiatives throughout Uganda.  It was here that I decided I wanted to pursue graduate studies in peacebuilding and conflict resolution, and the rest is history. So it's nice to be back where it all started!

The rolling hills of Kampala, from atop the Gadaffi Mosque minaret

Before I spend more time waxing lyrical about Kampala, I should mention that this is in fact not my destination for the summer--I am only here for a few days en route to Nairobi where I will be based until September. With a bit of spare time and more than a bit of desire to come back here to see old friends, I scheduled a stop-over in Kampala on my way to Kenya. It's been an added benefit that my great friends and CR classmates, Chelsea and Jess, have taken internships at Refugee Law Project, and I've had the opportunity to spend some time with them here, too. It's been fantastic catching up with old friends and passing hours at my favorite Kampala hangouts preparing for my work which is soon to begin in Kenya.

With CR's one and only Jess Bissett at Kampala's 
Gadaffi Mosque (yes--that Gadaffi), the second 
largest mosque in Africa

Now, about that work in Kenya...Having been awarded a generous fellowship from the CR Program, in a few days I will leave for Nairobi where I'll spend the rest of the summer conducting research on behalf of CR Professor Charles Villa-Vicencio. Our central question of consideration: 

"What factors define the degree to which individuals/communities in Kenya are susceptible or resilient to recruitment into violent extremist organizations?"

This research involves a partnership with the Swedish peacebuilding organization the Life and Peace Institute (LPI) and the Cape Town based Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR). My work will include conducting a variety of key informant interviews and focus group discussions on violent extremism and CVE in the Horn of Africa. I'll save a more thorough discussion of the details of the project for later.

For the next few days I'll just be refining focus group methodologies and preparing interview protocols as I get ready for the short journey over to Nairobi on Wednesday. Exciting days! More to come.

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