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The Seven Centers of Peace

Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda


This story originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of Rotary magazine. Visit Peace Fellowships for updates. 

Rotary Peace Centers offer tailor-made curricula to train individuals devoted to peacebuilding and conflict resolution — no matter where they land. More than 1,500 peace fellows from more than 115 countries have graduated from a Rotary Peace Center since the program was created in 1999; the first peace centers began classes three years later. The curriculum at each peace center has been carefully crafted to address specific aspects of the peacebuilding process — and train the next generation of global change-makers. Currently, Rotary has seven peace centers in various locations around the world. The newest, at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda — the first in Africa — welcomed its inaugural cohort of peace fellows in 2021.

The first peace center in Africa, Makerere is in the continent’s Great Lakes region, an area with a long history of conflict. This gives fellows, a large percentage of whom are from or live in Africa, a chance to interact in the direct aftermath of conflicts — or as clashes unfold in real time. But rather than pinpointing the causes of war, Makerere’s curriculum teaches fellows to expand their notion of “peace” beyond a simple absence of violence and into measures of personal safety and growth.

One of the highlights of the yearlong program is an intense weeklong trip to Rwanda, where fellows see how media and ethnicity directly fed into the country’s mass atrocities in 1994. To learn how spirituality influences behavior in war situations, students also visit Kibeho, a small Rwandan village where Catholic schoolgirls said they experienced apparitions of the Virgin Mary that foretold the bloodshed. “Our fellows either interface with the people who have experienced the strife, or they are able to interact with the actual situations through our field excursions,” says Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala, the peace center’s director.

Makerere’s curriculum, which emphasizes human rights and refugee and migration issues, encourages students to use what Nambalirwa Nkabala calls the “no-method” approach to peacebuilding — a fluid approach that, with its emphasis on indigenous participation, allows communities to engage with the peace fellows’ social change initiatives rather than merely accepting predetermined solutions.

Learn more about the Rotary Peace Center in Kampala and meet six peace fellows who are members of the center’s first cohort.

Read about other Rotary Peace Centers

• This story originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of Rotary magazine.