Focusing on the Great Lakes Region of Africa

This year’s conference in the award-winning series of Independent Study Projects organized through the Glendon International Studies Program, takes place on Saturday, Feb. 26. The conference, titled The Great Lakes Region of Africa: Divergent Pasts, Converging Future, will focus on the social, political and cultural influences of one of the most beautiful and troubled areas of Africa. The project’s topic was especially chosen in order to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the annual independent study project.

Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda make up the East and Central regions of Africa and together they constitute the Great Lakes Region of Africa. The international community has found the recent violent history of this region to be complex and largely incomprehensible. Although they are separate entities, the many diverse ethnic origins of the people, as well as the colonial histories of each state, have sown the seeds of the area’s current problems. The study is undertaken with the hope that the region’s nations and ethnic groups can work together to ensure a peaceful future for this part of Africa.

As in previous years, the Independent Study Project is entirely student-run. This year’s organizing committee consists of six international studies students and one economics student, working under the supervision of Professor Michael Barutciski of the International Studies Department at Glendon. This endeavour is made possible with the assistance of Foreign Affairs Canada and the Glendon Principal’s Office.

The annual project comprises a weekly seminar exploring relevant topics throughout the academic year; an international conference held around the end of February; field study which includes internships to provide the participants with the quantitative and qualitative data they need to complete their research essays; and at the close of the project an academic study will be published including the students’ research essays, along with the acts of the conference. The 2005 conference is presenting two simultaneous panel discussions throughout the day. A buffet lunch featuring African specialties, and an African musical and dance performance during the lunch will provide cultural enrichment and entertainment with a local flavour.

Several high-profile speakers and guests are expected to participate in the conference, including  Anne Leahy, Canadian ambassador to the Great Lakes Region of Africa; Dr. Sumeet Sodhi of Médecins sans frontiers; Monique Mujawamariya, president and founder of Africa Fund; Georges Tshionza Mata, general secretary of SERACOB/Central Africa (Service de Renforcement des Appuis aux Communautés de Base en Afrique Centrale), to name just a few.

Past International Studies Program conferences have studied a diverse selection of geographic areas, including Cuba, China, South Africa, the European Union, the Middle East, South-East Asia and Brazil. The two most recent conferences on Russia (in 2003) and India (in 2004) received prestigious awards for Student Leadership in Internationalization (from the Canadian Bureau for International Education) and Excellence in Internationalization (from Scotiabank/AUCC), respectively.

For more information or to register online, visit the International Studies Program Conference Web site, e-mail the conference organizing committee at, or call 416-846-5004.

This article was submitted to YFile by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny.