Image: Grassroots peacebuilding conference in Ad-Damazine  

Sam Angulo Onapa, UNE Peace Studies PhD Candidate, shares his experience with peacebuilding and vison for the future:

“I started my PhD studies at UNE in February 2017, hoping to identify the root causes of the conflict in South Sudan.

I come from a country that’s been in conflict for a long time – Uganda. During the height of the war in Northern Uganda, in early 2000, my family hosted a number of displaced people fleeing from the atrocities of the war. We’d support these people with food, clothes, shelter and counselling.

As bad as the situation in Uganda was, I knew the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, was far worse. I got the opportunity to do something about it when I got a job at the African Union Peace and Security Department, where I was involved in the initial Darfur peace process and the 2005 South Sudan post conflict process. I also pioneered grassroots peacebuilding projects in Sudan and South Sudan, and managed partner funds for peace building projects in various conflict hot spots in Africa.

Over 12 years I developed an understanding of the conflicts, political mediation processes and the persistent cycle of violence. But the challenge is huge: The conflict in South Sudan is rated as the world’s third largest humanitarian crisis after Syria and Afghanistan. I wanted to carry out research that could contribute to knowledge and solutions for this conflict, which would also be in line with the aim of the African Union’s flagship projects of silencing the guns by 2020.

After first completing a Master of Arts in Peacebuilding at the University of Coventry in the UK, I’m now undertaking PhD studies at UNE, focusing on the role of the political elite in the conflict in South Sudan. Most of the violent conflicts in Africa originate from the political level but affect the entire stratum of society. Unfortunately, solutions are normally restricted to the political level, with limited success.

So my ‘peace wish’ is what I also hope my research will help achieve: holistic and inclusive peace approaches synchronised across the grassroots community, civil society and the political levels, for sustainable solutions to end the cycle of violence.”