From June 27 – 30, the Africa Programs Office (APO) of the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) organized an in-person Alumni Symposium and capstone training in Nairobi, Kenya. The event was the final activity for APO’s Jo Cox memorial grant project funded by UKAID from the British people, which involved 11 training seminars and 15 online sessions over three years. The symposium attracted delegates from seven countries in the Great Lakes Region (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic), who were joined by representatives from the African Union (AU) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
The symposium and training served as an opportunity to report and examine the APO’s three years of work with national committees on IBV (identity-based violence) prevention, emphasizing and adapting to current challenges in the Great Lakes Region.
The event also provided a space for reflection with francophone and anglophone representatives from African civil society organizations to analyze risk factors and design joint strategies on training activities, methods for strengthening dialogue, and consolidating regional debates for the prevention of IBV.
Seminar modules focused on facilitating discussions on how legal instruments, institutions, and policies can be employed to develop national and regional plans for prevention programming with practical application and measurable benchmarks, as well as to situate the ongoing work of national committees within an advanced framework for the prevention of IBV.
During the symposium, instructors also highlighted the importance of social cohesion, regional cooperation, understanding atrocity prevention, and learning from past experiences to confront contemporary challenges.
Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch, former judge for the ICC, opened the Symposium along with a keynote by Ms. Alice Nderitu, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide (OSAPG) on Placing Africa at the Cutting Edge of Atrocity Prevention. During her keynote, Ms. Nderitu highlighted the recent resolution by the UN General Assembly on promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogues and tolerance in countering hate speech as a driver of mass atrocities. She further reiterated the UN Secretary General’s call to Member States and stakeholders to support interventions, strategies, and collaborative measures in addressing freedom of expression, vis-a-vis hate speech. Ms. Nderitu also urged the need to pay special attention to the Central African Republic, where the rule of law and protection of human rights are deteriorating.
The Symposium engaged with various thematic areas identified over the project period and was able to provide critical impact in transforming causes, drivers, and conditions of mass atrocities:
- Understanding atrocity prevention;
- Managing identity in deeply divided societies;
- Identity-based violence prevention in francophone and anglophone Africa;
- Memorialization of identity-based violence;
- Preventing identity-based violence through promoting community and regional values systems and practices.
Discussions on national and regional benchmarking also revealed other non-traditional avenues to help complement existing mechanisms, e.g., formalizing the role of religious and cultural leavers as well as women and youth to prevent mass atrocities and identity-based violence effectively.
The meeting generated cross-cutting recommendations at national and regional levels for the francophone and anglophone states to develop into reports and policy papers for future prevention initiatives.