The UNESCO/Keizo Obuchi Research Fellowship gave me the opportunity to work at the Centre for Peace Studies (CPS) of the University of Tromso in Norway, from January to April 2004. Benefiting from optimal work conditions, I dedicated myself first and foremost to the collection of data on peace theory, peace education and mechanisms of conflict resolution to be used for the Peaceful coexistence in Cameroon programme, a research project involving about twenty scholars from the University of Ngaoundere in Cameroon.
My stay was agreeable in terms of human relations, and fruitful with regard to both the research undertaken and the prospect of developing expertise in the Cameroonian university system on the issues of peace and security. During these three months, I wrote two chapters of a book, which constitutes part of my contribution to the project on peaceful coexistence in Cameroon. The lectures I attended and gave at the Centre for Peace Studies (CPS) and at the Department of History provided opportunities for mutually beneficial exchanges; I became familiar with the theoretical debate and improved my lecturing style in general and, in particular, my approach to and analysis of conflict and peace issues. Unlimited access to the new information and communication technologies and the Scandinavian university libraries system (BIBSYS) made it possible for me to draw up a specialized bibliography and to constitute a database of articles and other texts whose theoretical utility will be decisive for all the members of my research team and for master’s and doctoral students, who are not always aware of the theoretical issues because they lack access to documentation. Reading specialized publications helped to improve the theoretical dimension of the research project and to integrate the aspect of peace education as one of the major orientations of the work to be undertaken.
Through my readings and discussions with colleagues, I realized the extent to which teaching and research on peace in Africa is poorly developed, and even lacking, in Central Africa. As a result, a Master's degree programme leading to a Ph.D. in peace and security was developed, in cooperation with my hosts and various peace scholars from different universities, and will be introduced at the University of Ngaoundere. This programme, which is geared mainly towards Africa and takes a subregional approach, is designed to help Central Africa catch up in the area of peace and security. In preparation for the start of the program, efforts are being made to organize a conference on higher education for peace in Africa and a seminar for the teachers, researchers and resource persons who will be involved daily in this new field of competence. Similarly, constructive discussions held with my hosts laid the foundations for a partnership with the Centre for Peace Studies.
Finally, my stay at CPS was enriching from the standpoint of assimilating another academic tradition, refining my theoretical knowledge and establishing useful contacts for collaborative efforts. For my university, whose creed is promoting academic excellence, my work at CPS laid the foundations for a new academic and scientific framework.
Saibou Issa, June 2004