The Frontlines of Peace

‘Peace can grow in the most unlikely circumstances.’ - Prof. Séverine Autesserre

Prof. Autesserre is an award-winning author, peacebuilder, researcher, and political science professor at Barnard College, Columbia University.

April 13, 2021

Achieving lasting peace in the African continent has been an elusive dream, with some countries still mired with internal and external conflicts and others facing frequent military coups and the wrath of authoritarian regimes. The Nairobi Center hosted a webinar dubbed the Frontlines of Peace to dissect lessons for Africa on peacekeeping. The event was based on Prof. Severine Autesserre’s new book, The Frontlines of Peace, exploring the well-intentioned but inherently flawed peace industry. The book tells the stories of ordinary yet extraordinary individuals and organizations confronting violence in their communities effectively. 

The webinar showcased experiences of conflict in the continent, the psychological impact of war on people, especially young boys, and the challenges they faced while trying to assimilate into society. Narrations about young boys preferring to stick to the gun instead of assimilating into the society provided chilling accounts of the impacts of conflicts in the society. Lessons drawn from the book indicated that successful peacebuilding requires innovative grassroots initiatives led by local people. Real, lasting peace requires giving power to local citizens. Essentially, it means using the bottom-up approach where aid workers immerse themselves in local communities and directly build ties with grassroots organizations and the people. The webinar provided compelling evidence that the top-down approach of using outside forces often did more harm than good. 

With more than 20 years of work in 12 different conflict zones and 800 in-depth interviews with politicians, warlords, survivors, and ordinary people, the book is worth reading. The Center was proud to host this webinar to continue with its mandate of providing a forum for advancing knowledge across the continent.