Adjovi raises awareness in campus lecture

By Herb Scribner


Professor Roland Adjovi’s lecture in Thompson Hall sought to bring awareness to University of Massachusetts students about East African conflicts yesterday.


“It’s about the African issue and raising awareness,” said Adjovi. “It’s about taking and sharing issues on what’s going on on the other side of the world.”

Adjovi’s lecture was not only geared towards providing insight into study abroad programs, but also delivering information to those interested in the conflicts that have impacted eastern Africa, such as the number of social conflicts that have led to mass genocide.

Adjovi stressed to students that a primary concern about these conflicts is the lack of media attention and reactionary efforts to cease the warring parties. Countries such as the United Republic of Tanzania, the Republic of Rwanda, the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Uganda and the Republic of Burundi are all seeing on varying levels deaths and inhumane activities, as these conflicts continue with little major efforts arising to end them.

Adjovi, who works in Arusha, Tanzania, has seen the effects of these conflicts firsthand and explained that all of these countries’ human rights conflicts are being neglected to their detriment.

“What do you for them? Nothing has been done,” said Adjovi.

Adjovi also said that the countries’ political administrations have little to no control over the conflicts.

“States have no ownership,” said Adjovi.

Adjovi’s lecture also addressed the problem of a variety of contributing failings in the states’ political, social and economic systems.

In regards to Burundi, Adjovi explained that there is a significant struggle between different social classes, in which one’s skin color or status could dictate the level of violence another group would place upon another group.

“As we go deeper, it becomes less clear who we are,” said Adjovi, as he pointed to students classified them by skin color to illustrate that something on the surface such as skin color does not reflect an entire person’s being and how in Burundi, this social idea is not accepted highly.

Adjovi said during his lecture that Burundi’s social conflict is unlikely to have a clear end because of political corruption within the nation.

“Nobody is taking specific action to address the country,” said Adjovi.

He also discussed Rwanda and compared its social conflicts to that of Burundi’s, while associating it with Rwanda’s 1994 genocide as an example of the nations’ similarities.

“[There’s] no way to cope with the crime that has been committed,” said Adjovi. “No one has tried to run a trial for the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.”

Adjovi told the students that the sufferers of attacks of genocide often times don’t speak out about their traumatic experiences. Meanwhile, according to Adjovi, there are debates about whether rebel groups – many of which are committing these violent crimes – are rising in power and influence.

“If people that suffer from genocide can say they can continue … what lessons have they learned about what’s going on to their own people?” said Adjovi. “Almost nothing is being done at this stage.”

Although no one has begun to run a trial, according Adjovi, he would like to see the political leaders of Rwanda feeling pressured to address the genocides of the past in hopes that there could be a political discussion about the ramifications and reparations.

“It’s good to have a community to sit down and discuss the situation,” said Adjovi.

This was a continuing theme for Kenya’s government, which, according to Adjovi, is typically thought by developed nations to be a peaceful nation.

“Kenya appears peaceful, but that’s just an appearance,” said Adjovi. “Governments are not interested in long-term solutions.”

Adjovi also told students that “two different avenues” of communities have been working to improve the situations within eastern Africa – East African Community (EAC) and African Court of Human and People’s Rights, which are both located in Arusha, Tanzania.

Despite these communities’ efforts to construct and enforce clear rights for those of eastern Africa, Adjovi said there is resistance from states to build a common and sustainable set of governing laws, and that several documents, including a bill of rights, have failed to pass and have largely been disregarded.

As a part of an international tour, Adjovi visited UMass as well as Boston College.

With BC, Adjovi sought to continue securing relations with the program that the school currently has with Tanzania.

During his visit to UMass, which was planned with the study abroad programs to help raise awareness of what students can do and expect on their different trips, Adjovi made visits to classes that concentrated on similar themes to his lecture. In the future, Adjovi hopes to visit UMass to deliver his messages again.

“Let me come back to your classes,” said Adjovi. “I am African, I am biased and I am a lawyer.”

Still, Adjovi was critical of his own role as a lecturer and scholar, speaking about an incident that occurred when he first arrived in Boston.

While on Skype one of the nights, a friend called him and his friend was then interrupted by his own wife.

“She said, ‘you scholars say someone won the election …They are too bad to run our country. We are fed up and we want peace,’” said Adjovi. “[She asked] ‘Are you living here? Do you suffer?’”

Adjovi ended his lecture on that note, stating that while he may be educated on the conflicts in eastern Africa, he is not experiencing the events himself.

Adjovi is the academic director at Arcadia Center in Arushia, Tanzania. He also recently published an op-ed forum called “First Ruling by American Court on Human and People’s Right” in both “Jurist,” published out of University of Pittsburgh Law School, and “Sentinelle,” the weekly newsletter published by the French Society for International Law.

Later on Tuesday night, Adjovi continued his speaking tour, lecturing at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]