• Catherine Cousar

Interview with Ernest Ogbozor

Ernest N. Ogbozor is the newest member of the Forage Center board of directors. He is a scholar-practitioner of conflict resolution, peacebuilding, international development, and humanitarian action. He is a visiting scholar at the Center for Peacemaking Practice at George Mason University and has worked on the front lines of humanitarian response for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Nigeria (ICRC). He has a long history of working with the Forage Center and has taken part in past activities and simulations. Here, he reflects on her experiences in conversation with Forage Center Administrative Specialist, Catherine Cousar.

Q) What led you to join the Forage Center Board of Directors?

A) I joined the Forage Center Board to continue my long-time relationship with the Atlantic Hope exercise that dates to 2013. I think that joining the Forage Center as a board member will enable me to continue to use my skills and experience to contribute to FC activities in order to achieve its mission and goal.

Q) You have been part of Forage Center field exercises in the past. Do you have a favorite story or experience you would like to share?

A) My favorite experience at FC was a model or theory we developed on protection of detainees/prisoners. The theory emerged after a hot wash and reflection from prison visit exercise, it later culminated to an article published in a scientific journal titled “Preventing torture for people deprived of freedom: The Atlantic Hope and Black Swan Prison Model” published on Torture: Journal of Rehabilitation of Torture Victims and Prevention of Torture. An excerpt of the summary of the article:

“International law and minimum standards provide certain protection for detainees and prisoners of war (POW) against torture and ill-treatment. Places of detention and parties to conflicts are often monitored to ensure that they adhere to the required standards through, for example, visits to individual detainees and the assessment of facilities. However, monitoring between the point of arrest and eventual remand in prisons is largely inadequate. The paper explains an emerging model to enhance protection of prisoners through readiness training for prospective humanitarian personnel. The Atlantic Hope simulation exercise on monitoring detainees and visits to the mock Black Swan prison represents a teaching model to enhance sustainable protection of detainees and POW during incarceration. The simulation entails comprehensive monitoring, assessment, visits and provision of services to prisoners from the point of arrest, during the transition to places of custody, and imprisonment. These enhance protection of detainees to avoid deaths in custody, disappearance and torture throughout the chain of imprisonment.”

Q) You hold a Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution (George Mason University) and are currently a visiting scholar at the Center for Peacemaking Practice, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University (GMU). What topics of research are you currently pursuing?

A) The topic of my current research is the “Impact of violent extremism on local communities in the Lake Chad Basin.” My current research focuses on understanding the micro-level impact of militant activities (Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa, and Al-Qaida affiliates) on agrarian communities in the West African Sahel regions. Clashes between sedentary farmers and extremist nomadic cattle herders in Africa escalated dramatically in the last decade, increasing in scale and levels of violence. In Nigeria, the conflict between farmers and militant pastoralist herders in 2018 was by far more lethal than attacks by the terrorist organization Boko Haram. What accounts for this deadly surge? Will clashes of this nature become more frequent overtime? These are the key questions my current research is attempting to answer. The research will examine the intersection of land, livelihood, and inter-communal conflict in African communities.

Q) You have worked as both an academic and as a practitioner in the fields of conflict resolution, international development, and humanitarian action, including with organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), Enterprise for Development International (EfDI), and TechnoServe Inc. How has your fieldwork influenced your scholarship and vice versa?

A) My work as a practitioner has great influence on my research and teaching. My research topics emerged from problems I encountered in the field, whereas my research has helped me to analyze and understand some of the complex issues I encountered in the field. Also, the graduate class I taught “Humanitarian Action in Conflict” integrates theory and practice in humanitarian assistance. The several years I spent working at with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as an aid worker has immense influence on the class. Similarly, my undergraduate class, “Land, Livelihood, and Inter-communal Conflict” draws from my professional practice in development and conflict resolution.

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