24 May 2024 | Story Precious Shamase | Photo Supplied
Prof Ismail Rashid
Prof Ismail Rashid delivering an Africa Day Memorial lecture.

In celebration of Africa Month, the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies (CGAS) in the Faculty of The Humanities at the University of the Free State (UFS) commemorated Africa Day with a thought-provoking lecture titled, Peacebuilding in Africa: Challenges, Trends, and Futures.  This hybrid event, held on 22 May 2024 in E0014 of the Education Building on the Qwaqwa Campus and aligned with the UFS' Vision 130, served as a platform for critical reflection on Africa's journey towards lasting peace. The Qwaqwa Campus erupted in celebration as it held its historic inaugural Africa Day memorial lecture.

Welcoming the dignitaries

In her welcome address, Prof Nompumelelo Zondi, the Vice-Dean: Research and Postgraduate Studies in the Faculty of The Humanities, welcomed all present. In attendance was members of the royal households – Morena Kakul from Sterkspruit, Morena Lebenya from Matatiele, Mafumahadi Moshoeshoe from Matatiele, Morena Emoholo, Moremoholo Mopeli, as well as the Maluti-a-Phofung District Manager, Mme Lebenya. “The Africa Day Memorial Lecture is one of the flagship academic events on the calendar of the University of the Free State, hosted by the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies since the very first one delivered in 2009 by Achille Mbembe. Over the years, we have been honoured to host some of the greatest African and decolonial intellectuals of their generation, including Ali Mazrui, Mahmood Mamdani, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Henning Melber, Alcinda Honwana, Paul Zeleza, Francis Nyamnjoh, Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Walter Mignolo, and Bagele Chilisa, to name just a few. Prof Rashid joins a list of intellectual luminaries who have been invited by the UFS to be part of this important event,” said Prof Zondi.

Peacebuilding in Africa: Challenges and hope

Prof Ismail Rashid, the Marion Musser Lloyd 32' Professor of History and International Relations at Vassar College, delivered the keynote address. He was invited to speak on crucial issues related to Africa.  Prof Rashid, a renowned scholar on African history and peacebuilding, explored the complexities of post-colonial Africa's pursuit of peace.  His lecture resonated with the UFS' core values of innovation, integrity, respect, and compassion, emphasising the importance of fostering a peaceful and just society on the continent.

The lecture delved into the continuing challenges faced by African nations in establishing durable peace.  Prof Rashid highlighted the legacy of colonialism, internal conflict, and external pressure as significant roadblocks.  He acknowledged the shift towards peacebuilding initiatives but pointed out the limitations of their implementation.  The lecture engaged with critiques offered by African scholars and activists who advocate for peacebuilding approaches that prioritise local contexts and needs. Prof Rashid posed the question of how we will move forward and said, “We go forward as Africans by looking at the present in some ways and to the past in some ways. I would like to spotlight South Africa and the decision to take Israel to the International Court of Justice. There is a part of me that is hugely disappointed, in the sense that until recently, when Egypt said that it would support South Africa, not a single other African country joined South Africa’s effort. I strongly believe that South Africa should not be alone in that particular action,” said Prof Rashid. He concluded his talk by saying that in this part of the world we have a very interesting philosophy – very powerful and a very useful one called ‘ubuntu’ – I am because you are. In bringing those positive African values, we can bring a better Africa and a better world.

This event exemplifies the UFS' commitment to fostering dialogue on critical global issues.  By providing a platform for renowned experts such as Prof Rashid, the UFS contributes to Vision 130's goal of becoming a leading research-intensive university in Africa.  The Africa Day Memorial Lecture served as a catalyst for further exploration of peacebuilding strategies that can contribute to a more stable and prosperous Africa.

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