By Patience Rusare, Rotary Peace Fellow at Makerere University
When I applied for my Rotary Peace Fellowship for a professional development postgraduate diploma in March 2020, I deliberately chose the new center in Africa, Makerere Rotary Peace Centre in Uganda.
In my application, I noted: “My first preference is Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Makerere is located in the heart of the Great Lakes Region, which historically and even currently experiences the most conflict in Africa. Studying at Makerere University will provide a strategic proximity to communities affected by the conflict in the region, which makes it a fertile ground for case studies relating to the programme.”
And I am glad I made that choice.
The Rotary Peace Fellowship at Makerere University offered me the practical side of peacebuilding. As part of the fellowship program, fellows are expected to design and carryout a Social Change Initiative in their communities. As a human rights journalist, I had covered the Lesotho political crisis (2014-2015), Mali’s Tuareg conflict (2014-2015) and Zimbabwe’s political crisis (2013-2018), and I realized that journalists were furthering political contestations and endorsing competing ideologies. This is when I made a conscious decision to specialize in peace journalism and help inculcate a sense of responsibility to journalists, equipping them with skills to report and frame their storytelling in a peace-inclined perspective and context.
The overall goal of my Peace Journalism Initiative is to use media as a platform to promote national dialogue and reconciliation in Zimbabwe. At least 25 young journalists, story tellers, short-film makers, and web journalists benefitted from this four-month training program, gaining conflict sensitive storytelling techniques. Some of the sessions were hybrid with more than 15 Uganda young journalists joining in and sharing notes.
The Initiative was facilitated by a panel of renowned peace journalism experts from United States, Uganda, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe, including:
- Director of the Centre for Global Peace Journalism at Park University and Luxembourg Peace Prize Laureate (2020-2021), Professor Steve Youngblood
- Ugandan award-winning journalist & Head of the Refugee and Migration Media Network, Gloria Laker Aciro
- Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution Specialist at Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps and Facilitator at National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Dr. Samuel Odobo
- Director Southern Africa for Institute for Economics and Peace, Dr. TrustMamombe
- Makerere University’s Head of Journalism Department, Dr. William Tayeebwa
One of the training sessions with Professor Youngblood included time for self-introspection on where the Zimbabwean media stand. Some of the reflections showed that journalists, from state media and private media, do not report the actual narrative of conflict victims, rather they suffer from high sensationalism and a lack of objectivity. Most journalists revealed that most of their stories contain a lot of negative language that often indicates blame, which contributes to the escalation of the conflict.
The 25 young journalists were charged to be proactive, examine the causes of conflict, look for ways to encourage dialogue before violence occurs and explore solutions while reporting conflict to achieve peace journalism. The program, which comes as Zimbabwe holds elections in 2023, will steer journalists toward the value of upholding peace and away from sensational, inflammatory, and one-sided styles of reporting.
The opportunity to study and explore peace and conflict in Uganda, and meet so many dedicated people, left me inspired and committed to this road of working for peace and justice in our world.
I am so very grateful to the Rotary Foundation, Makerere University Rotary Peace Center, and Rotary Club of Chitungwiza for giving me this golden opportunity to not only study peace and conflict, but to explore different cultures and traditions and contribute to global peace.
Patience Rusare is Rotary Peace Fellow at Makerere University. She is a multi-award-winning journalist from Zimbabwe with a Master Science in Peace, Leadership and Conflict Resolution, a Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Journalism and Media Studies and a Bachelor of Science Special Honours in Monitoring and Evaluation.