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While every conflict is distinctive, there are shared dynamics common to conflicts in Africa as well as inter-relationships between seemingly separate conflicts that undergird the continuation or resurgence of conflicts. Until communities and practitioners decipher and understand the true root causes of conflicts and key factors influencing them, it is difficult if not impossible to apply adequate measures to transform these conflicts.
While one can mention, colonialism, militaristic regimes, dictatorial governments, ethnic/clan divisions, resource exploitation, poverty, inequality and lower rates of socio-economic development as roots of a number of conflicts across the continent, there needs to be deeper research to ascertain their manifestation in each context.
In addition, information coming from most research is often hard to decipher by communities for which it would be beneficial and often does not reach them at all. In addition tested knowledge gained by communities through practice rarely reaches those making decisions affecting a said community.
COPA plans to undertake research on important conflict issues in Africa to lay the foundation for deeper understanding of the root causes of conflicts and key people able to positively influence it. The research topics will surface either following meetings or requests from partners. They can also be opportunistic to respond to current or emerging issues. Some of the planned research focuses on topics to deepen the knowledge based in the peace field in Africa (for example “African approaches to Trauma”) or to witness and learn from violence (such as documenting human rights violations during the 2008 elections violence in Kenya and publicizing Promoting a culture of Peace in Kenya).
One of the important strategies for COPA is to implement “Action Research.” This approach is defined as a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as part of a ‘community of practice’ to improve the way they address issues and solve problems. It aims at improving strategies, practices, and knowledge of the environments within which one practices. As designers and stakeholders, researchers work with others to propose a new course of action to help their community improve its work practices. (Kurt Lewin, 1944)