Press release, Mekelle University – Aksum, 12 November 2019: High Level meeting launches new peace institute in the Tigray region of Ethiopia

Press release, Mekelle University – Aksum, 12 November 2019: High Level meeting launches new peace institute in the Tigray region of Ethiopia

A High-Level meeting on “Rehabilitation, youth employment and digital innovation”, organized by the Mekelle, Adwa and Aksum Universities, was held in the historical city of Aksum, Ethiopia from 9 to 10 November 2019. During the meeting, the Mereb Institute for Peace Building, Development and Rehabilitation was inaugurated and the latest two volumes in the book series “Connected and Mobile: Migration and Human Trafficking in Africa,” were launched. Authors and editors from the two volumes, “Roaming Africa: Migration, Resilience and Social Protection” and “Mobile Africa: Human Trafficking and the Digital Divide”, spoke about the dangers of forced migration, by illustrating human trafficking for ransom in countries such as Libya, and the effects of trauma on refugees. The books further explore the movement of people in Africa with a diverse group of authors, shifting the dominant and often negative lens through which migration is looked at. Speakers on the cutting edge of peace building and the interlinked issues that drive forced movement on the African continent discussed the nexus between digitalisation, refugees. migration, rehabilitation and youth resilience and employment in mobile Africa.

Linking academic research with practical solutions, the participants launched several building blocks for solving factors that undermine peace, fair use of data and youth employment. H.E. Aboubacar Sidiki Koné, Chair of the Committee on Cooperation, International Relations and Conflict of the Pan-African Parliament, observed that: “Everywhere we meet refugees, but young persons must work for peace in Africa. […] It is not what you say, but what you do for refugees.”

The Mereb Institute for Peace-building, Development and Rehabilitation is named after the Mereb River that flows between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Institute will offer training to youth from the host and refugee communities and connect them to the labour market in this way according to the President of Mekelle University, a founding institution, it will: “…enable the youth from both Eritrea and Ethiopia to access education and participate in the economic and social rehabilitation.” The mayor of Aksum city, Elias Kahsay in his opening speech pointed out that: “Young generations should be given an equal chance.” V.C. Chindanya from Great Zimbabwe University observed that the Institute will require: “… a lot of work in terms of objectives but there is clarity on what needs to be done.”

Prof Kinfe Abraha (Mekelle University), co-chair for the event, pointed out that: “In order for somebody to be employable, he or she has to have the needed knowledge, skills and attitude, and that will be the result of training.” And, Prof. Mirjam van Reisen (Tilburg University) added: “The first aim of the Institute, is a certificate programme. We need the youth to have skills and knowledge, as well as experience. It is from that spirit that we feel that as academia, we have a responsibility to make sure that we have a low- threshold accessibility through which we can train up people and bring them in the society in a way they can contribute. They want to contribute; they just need to be shown the way.”

During the meeting concrete steps and solutions linking research and actions for building peace and combatting disruptive factors to peace, such as human trafficking were also discussed. “I want to emphasize the issue of research, because many times, in various universities, a lot of research is done, but then there is no clear pathway where research is going to inform policy.” Said H.E. Zaminah Malole, Equal Opportunities Commissioner in Uganda.

Activities in the Mereb Institute are planned to start around mid-2020 after careful consultation with stakeholders. “It is supporting the peace dealing process of both governments. The idea that we are having is just a beginning – the main thing is, people have to be engaged.”