The Chair facilitated a discussion with Dr Wilhelm Verwoerd at the Belfast launch of “Verwoerd: My Journey through Family Betrayals” on 17 October 2019. The discussion focused on key aspects of the book, and particularly Dr Verwoerd’s challenges of coming to terms with the fact that HF Verwoerd, his grandfather, was the South African Prime Minister who is widely considered the architect of the apartheid system. Topics for discussion included key questions of the responsibilities of those who benefitted from the apartheid system, the question of “betrayal” when you take a different path to peacebuilding from those around you, as well as the relevance of the book to wider contexts.
The Chair, with the Transitional Justice Institute and INCORE, hosted a successful book launch of “Reconciliation and Building a Sustainable Peace: Competing Worldviews in South Africa and Beyond” by Dr Cathy Bollaert. The book, based on her PhD research at Ulster University (co-supervised by Brandon Hamber, Kris Brown and Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin), explores how competing worldviews impact on intergroup relations and building a sustainable peace in culturally diverse societies. It raises the question of what happens in a culturally diverse society when competing values and ways of interpreting reality collide and what this means for peace-building and the goal of reconciliation.
Professor Hamber with partners Fambul Tok (Sierra Leone), Catalyst for Peace (US), Refugee Law Project (Uganda), Green String Network (Kenya), and the Research and Advocacy Unit and African University (Zimbabwe) secured a seed grant to develop a Global Challenges Research Fund project to bring together partners to consider: “What are the internal-external framework and relationships that genuinely, in practice, support the creation of resilient communities facing ongoing and dynamic peace and development challenges, and how can communities, local organisations and international donors help to grow these?”. A large inter-country meeting took place in Freetown in 22-26 January 2018. A range of new initiatives will now flow from the meeting including joint research and proposals.
In December 2017 Professor Erin Baines, Associate Professor at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs (SPPGA) at the University of British Columbia, visited Belfast to explore ongoing partnerships and also engage with Ulster University MSc, LLM and PhD students. Professor Baines offered two classes on focusing on her work in Uganda entitled “Children & Futurities” and a second research focused workshop entitled “De-colonial approaches to research on violence”. Wider than this Profess Hamber and Professor Baines outlined some future plans for joint co-operation and research.
Professor Hamber and Grainne Kelly continued to work on the concept of reconciliation. In 2017 they spoke at two high-level events in Northern Ireland. The first with The Executive Office and staff as they consider the role of reconciliation in the draft Programme for Government and Together: Building a United Community (TBUC). They participants and delivered the keynote address at a further seminar at the “Together: Building a United Community Engagement Forum” on 15 June 2017, with the Executive Office (TEO) and over 160 community practitioners, policymakers and academics that took place at the Girdwood Community Hub.
In Mid-May 2017 Professor Hamber visited Uganda again as part of the Summer Institute focusing on “Men’s and Women’s Relations in Coercive Settings” (17-19 May 2017) hosted by the Refugee Law Project (RLP) and in War Partnership (CSiW). As part of the event Professor Hamber participated in a 2-day long workshops run by RLP and partners with men who were former combatants/abducted during the Northern Uganda war to learn from their experiences. The second part of the event was a more open conference focusing on women’s and men’s experiences of forced relationships in wartime.
In March 2017 a delegation from Sierra Leone including the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Maya Kai Kai, visited Belfast. The visit was the result of Professor Hamber visiting Sierra Leone in February 2016 on invitation of Catalyst for Peace (operational US Foundation) and Fambul Tok a local NGO. The trip focused on observing the work of Fambul Tok. Fambul Tok (meaning “family talk”) is a community ritual process that takes place at bonfires in which reconciliation between victims and perpetrators of political violence takes place (see http://www.fambultok.org). When the Ebola crisis hit, the same networks were used for post-war reconciliation were transformed into health prevention networks. Then in the last two years the networks have continued to develop, and have morphed into a local governance processes called the “People’s Planning Process”. Fambul Tok have run this new peace and development process in 3 regions. Through the trip Professor Hamber was invited to be an advisor to and Fambul Tok, as they set out to mainstream the process with government. As part of this process, Professor Hamber, funded and supported by Catalyst for Peace, hosted a delegation from Sierra Leone including the Minister of Land and Rural Development, MPs, a major, local council members and various civil society representatives in Belfast in April 2017 to discuss the inclusive local governance and peacebuilding process unfolding in Sierra Leone.