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Working for Peace Five Fellows at a Time

Weinberg senior’s vision creates a program with implications for Africa’s future

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June 9, 2010 | by Wendy Leopold
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Enhancing skills in conflict resolution, consensus building and negotiation is difficult work, as any student of organization can tell you. In South Kordafan -- a contested, marginalized, oil-rich and ethnically diverse area in central Sudan -- it is potentially a matter of life and death.

"The people of central Sudan are in an extremely difficult spot," says William Kalema, a senior in Northwestern University's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the architect of the Sudanese Good Governance Fellowships.

An initiative of the Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies, the program works to enhance basic governance skills in five political leaders from South Kordafan.

Consider this, says Kalema, a senior from Delaware who spent summers visiting his father in Uganda. Sudanese living in the north and south, through a referendum, have been given the ability to separate and set up their own governments since peace was negotiated in 2005 after decades of civil war.

Residents in Sudan's central area were not. Instead, they must negotiate directly with one another in a process known as popular consultation. The failure of popular consultation could plunge the entire country back into a bloody civil war, says Buffett Center director Brian Hanson, who, with Kalema, hopes to formalize the fellowship program.

To date, the Sudanese fellows have taken part in lectures, workshops and classes with Weinberg, School of Law, School of Continuing Studies and Kellogg School of Management faculty and community and grass-roots organizations.

Last week they were in Washington, D.C., meeting with staff from media representatives and with think tanks and organizations committed to peace building and good governance. They also took part in a daylong peace resolution program sponsored by the U.S. Institute for Peace.

The six-week fellowship program emphasizes leadership, negotiation, strategic planning, policymaking, conflict resolution and project management. At the end, the fellows will develop a written "action plan" that they will implement in Sudan.

Back in Evanston, Kalema and Hanson will try to build the program.

"I can't remember a time when I didn't want to do international work," says Kalema, who has worked with John Hagan, MacArthur Professor of Sociology and Law at Northwestern, and graduate students and undergraduate students on the fellowship program. He conceived the idea for a leadership program the summer after his freshman year while interning with the International Law Institute in Kampala, Uganda.

"As a child growing up in Delaware and visiting Uganda in the summers, I was struck by the fact that America functions so well and has strong institutions that contribute to making the country work," Kalema says. "We take it for granted that our roads are drivable and that our tax dollars go to public education and basic health services. Uganda and many other African nations simply don't have the institutions that provide essential services."

As an intern at Kampala's International Law Institute offices, Kalema listened to "one compelling story after the next about the devastating effects of civil war and how it leads to a vacuum in leadership." In Kampala, he talked with a member of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and, for the first time, discussed his idea for a fellowship program.

Today, with Northwestern University faculty and Buffett Center staff, Kalema hopes to formalize the good governance fellowships program. "It's been a successful pilot project that can be replicated," Kalema says. "Now it's time to think critically about the road ahead."

Buffett Center director Hanson agrees. "The program created by Kalema has been visionary," Hanson says. "The conflict resolution, leadership and project management skills it teaches can prove critically important not only for Sudan but also for other countries. It's our hope that this group of fellows is the first in a growing program to enhance governance capacity in societies emerging from conflict."
Topics: People, University