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Uganda and Rwanda: Peace and Conflict Studies in the Lake Victoria Basin (Summer)

Uganda and Rwanda: Peace and Conflict Studies in the Lake Victoria Basin (Summer)

Examine the root causes of conflict and analyze measures to foster resettlement and reconciliation in Uganda and Rwanda.

This program explores the social, political, and psy­chosocial processes that have shaped the emergence of conflict in the Lake Victoria Basin. Students also exam­ine the measures that have been taken toward conflict mitigation, reconciliation, resettlement, and preven­tion in the region. The 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda and the conflict driven by Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda serve as primary case studies.

Major topics of study include:

  • The history, contemporary politics, and role of the state in each conflict
  • A theoretical framework and historical context in which to situate the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the emergence of the Lord’s Resis­tance Army (LRA) in the Acholi region of Uganda
  • Measures that prevent and miti­gate conflict
I am so grateful for the opportunity to have participated in this program. It has been an incredible, transformative experience for me. I can truly say that this experience will inform all future life decisions I make, whether they be academic or professional.

Gina Starfield, Yale University

Gravesite memorial in UgandaStudents on the summer Uganda and Rwanda: Peace and Conflict Studies in the Lake Victoria Basin program explore the history and causes of conflict and the measures that have been instituted to promote recovery and reconciliation. Students move beyond the conventional rhetoric and assumptions typically associated with the 1994 Rwanda genocide and the conflict in northern Uganda to a deeper understanding of the relevant causes, consequences, and outcomes, including current prospects for peace.

Topics of Inquiry in Rwanda

The program begins in Rwanda where students examine the 1994 genocide that resulted in the killing of nearly one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a time span of 100 days. The intensity of the violence as well as the extent to which survivors and perpetrators live side by side today provide a unique case study on genocide causation, prevention, and mitigation. Students debate questions such as:

  • In what ways can we explain the Rwandan Genocide and what do these explanations illuminate about the possibilities and limitations of human nature, global institutions of governance such as the United Nations, and the contemporary modern state form?
  • In what ways does the Rwanda case inform, complicate, or illuminate a framework for genocide prevention?
  • What reconciliation model is being applied in Rwanda, and what facilitates and hinders its success? What are its potential implications for sustainable peace in Rwanda and the region?

Topics of Inquiry in Uganda

The war in northern Uganda ended in 2007 upon the signing of the Juba Peace Accords. However, within the larger Ugandan context, the war intensified the north-south divide, and the country continues to grapple with political, economic, and social effects of the war. Meanwhile, the Acholi people endeavor to resettle, to rebuild their lives, and to reconcile individuals, families, and clans, but these efforts are complicated by inadequate access to material, political, and financial resources; multifarious and uncoordinated projects; and tensions between local traditions and modernity. In this context, students consider questions such as:

  • How do Acholi people navigate the complex terrain of modernity and traditional culture, and how does this shape reconciliation and recovery efforts?
  • What are the international and national forces that threaten sustainable peace and how do these play out within local Acholi society?
  • How are “global policies” and multinational interests articulated within Uganda and Acholiland, in particular? How do these facilitate or hinder reconciliation and recovery?
  • What strategies are local people, the government, and international actors implementing to foster resettlement, reconciliation, and sustainable peace? What are the successes and potential limitations of these efforts?
  • How do the history and course of the conflict in northern Uganda inform our understanding of conflict causation and mitigation in Africa? Elsewhere?

Community meeting.Program resources and in-country partners

In Rwanda the program visits and/or engages lecturers from:
In Uganda the program visits and/or engages lecturers from:
  • Nakivaale Refugee Settlement
  • Gulu University
  • Selected NGO officials
  • Gulu local government officials
  • Parliament of Uganda
  • A traditional chief

Previous students have drawn upon these networks and resources for future professional work in the region.

Broad Exposure to the Region

The program spends time in multiple locations in both urban and rural areas of Uganda and Rwanda, and students should expect to travel frequently. This travel provides students with broad exposure and access to multiple communities and perspectives in Uganda and Rwanda. Students examine similarities and differences in how and why communities respond to situations of conflict and reconciliation.

In previous programs, field visits have included excursions to:
  • National University of Rwanda at Huye (formerly Butare) to explore reconciliation concepts and processes with members of students clubs for unity and reconciliation
  • A women’s association of wives of perpetrators of genocide and women survivors of genocide
  • Selected NGOs in Kigali, Rwanda, and Gulu, Uganda, such as Invisible Children and the Justice and Reconciliation Project
  • Rural communities in Uganda where students meet with local leaders and visit a primary school and a government health center
  • Queen Elizabeth National Park or Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda
  • Millenium Project villages Musanze and Bugesera
  • Buyengo Busia or Kasese in Uganda
  • Sites where convicted perpetrators of genocide work on community service projects


While there are no course prerequisites for the program, psychological stability and emotional maturity are required to enable students to engage effectively with these difficult subjects.

Access Virtual Library Guide

Lectures and discussions with professors and professionals working in the fields of conflict resolution, mitigation, and prevention provide both a theoretical framework and a historical context in which to situate the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Acholi region of Uganda and the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

In both Rwanda and Uganda, one week of classroom discussions, readings, and lectures addresses the history, contemporary politics, and role of the state in each conflict. Students then visit carefully selected sites to study the issues firsthand and to observe the current climate. Cultural immersion and interactions with homestay families complement these studies.

Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Peace and Conflict Seminar – syllabus
(PEAC 3000 / 6 credits / 90 class hours)
The course examines the historical, political, and social dimensions of the conflicts in the Lake Victoria Basin with a focus on northern Uganda and Rwanda. Major topics include the sources and root causes of conflict, political and social aspects of the genocide, migration and refugee issues, the UN Tribunal, and the Gacaca court system in Rwanda.

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

Ntarama Memorial  in RwandaExcursions are deliberately selected to resonate with the program theme and to expose students to a broad range of social and cultural aspects in Rwanda and Uganda.

Rwanda Genocide Memorial

Situated at the site of mass burial of the 250,000 victims of Kigali’s genocide, the Kigali Memorial Centre is a place for reflection and learning. Using exhibitions, videos, clippings, and quotes, the memorial explores the history and origins of genocide, its impacts, and the post-genocide period as well as ongoing reconciliation and peace efforts in ways that transcend textbook descriptions. Many visitors to the memorial cite this as a life-transforming experience.

Ntarama and Nyamata

The churches in Ntarama and Nyamata were sites of mass executions during the Rwandan genocide. Students have a chance to talk with survivors and reflect on the personal impact of the violence. These visits put a human face on the horrific ordeal of genocide and can be emotionally challenging.

Nakivale Refugee CampRural communities in northern Uganda

Students undertake carefully prepared visits to rural communities in northern Uganda to experience the dynamics of post-conflict resettlement and recovery, the opportunities and challenges that are encountered at multiple levels, and how these opportunities are forged and challenges are mitigated. Students examine interactions between the government, civil society, NGOs, and local communities.

Nakivaale Refugee Settlement, western Uganda

Originally a refugee camp for the victims of the 1959 Hutu revolution, Nakivaale now hosts thousands of Rwandans displaced during and after the 1994 genocide. The excursion to the settlement exposes students to voices and perspectives that often are neglected in mainstream discourse. The visit prompts discussion as to what gets left out and why in conflict and post-conflict narratives. 

Daniel LumonyaDaniel Lumonya, Academic Director

Daniel Lumonya, a Ugandan national, received his BA in social work and social administration and his MA in social sector planning and management from Makerere University in Uganda. In addition, he received certificates in research methodology and project formulation as well as project planning and management. Daniel is currently a PhD candidate in development sociology at Cornell University. 

Daniel worked with the Uganda Constitutional Commission as part of a team that prepared Uganda’s 1995 constitution. He has lectured at Makerere University and served as a World Studies Fellow at Marlboro College in Vermont. At Marlboro, he taught courses on social dimensions of development, coordinating global perspectives, and rural development in sub-Saharan Africa, while serving as an international student advisor and a World Studies Committee member.

Daniel served as the academic director for both the SIT Uganda: Development Studies program from 2001 to 2007 and the SIT Rwanda: Post-Genocide Restoration and Peacebuilding semester program from 2011 to 2013. In addition to working with students in Rwanda and Uganda to study the impact of conflict on development for many years, Daniel has also been involved in a number of research projects and presentations on the health and safety of children and families in the region.

Program Staff:

Annette Kimenyi, Program Assistant, Kigali

Annette Kimenyi is a Rwandan national, a mother of two teenage girls, and a resident of Gasabo district Kigali, Rwanda. She was born and raised in Uganda where she completed high school in 1993 at Masaka Secondary School, not very far from the Uganda/Rwanda border. She later continued her education in Rwanda, where she obtained a diploma in secretarial studies at the Kigali Institute of Education in 2005. Prior to joining SIT, Annette worked as a client services manager in advertizing and media, an accounts manager, an event manager, a social worker, and an administrator in Kigali city local government. Annette is versatile and dynamic. She is fluent in English, Kinyarwanda, and French. 

Annette’s responsibilities include student support in cross-cultural adjustment and academic learning experiences under supervision of the academic director, program logistics and planning, field visit organization, and office management.

Issa Higiro, Program Assistant, Kigali

A Rwandan citizen, Issa has held the position of homestay coordinator and program assistant with SIT since fall 2009. He is the founder of Memos: Learning from History, a nonprofit organization that deals with memory and reconciliation after the genocide. He currently serves as the organization’s volunteer coordinator of training and networking. Furthermore, Issa has been a committed peacemaker since 2001 and has ample experience working as a community coordinator, including holding a peacemaker tag from the Peacemaker Institute. Issa served as the assistant coordinator of a rescuers research project financed by the Hamburg Institute of Social Research in Germany in 2007, 2009, and 2010. Higiro grew up in exile in Uganda and returned to his home country of Rwanda immediately after the 1994 genocide. Higiro is married and has three daughters and one son.

Denis Bikesha, Homestay Coordinator, Kigali

Mr. Bikesha received a law degree (LLB) in 2004 from the Rwanda National University in Butare. Since then, he has worked as a lawyer for the National Service of Gacaca Courts in Rwanda, which deals with cases related to the Rwandan genocide. In 2007, he became the National Service's director of training, mobilization, and sensitization. Denis is currently pursuing his PhD at the University of Dar es Salaam.

Simon Oola, Program Assistant, Gulu

Simon is a graduate of Makerere University with a major in political science and a concentration in gender and development. He has worked at the Parliament of Uganda under the International Republican Institute (IRI), which aims to develop political parties and democratization of Uganda. In addition, Simon has worked as the program assistant at RICH Consult Uganda (Right to Improved Child Health) in Amuru and Nwoya districts, where he handled issues of sexual and reproductive health among young people affected by war. He also worked as the district field coordinator of CropLife Uganda in Nwoya District. He has wide-ranging experiences in research and evaluations in cross-cutting issues in northern Uganda. His main areas of interest include economic livelihoods of people in northern Uganda, the elderly and most vulnerable, gender roles, equity, and transformation. 

Lecturers for this program typically include:

Denis Bikesha

Mr. Bikesha received a law degree (LLB) in 2004 from the Rwanda National University in Butare and since then has worked as a lawyer for the National Service of Gacaca Courts in Rwanda, which deals with cases related to the Rwandan genocide. In 2007, he became the National Service's director of training, mobilization, and sensitization. Denis is currently pursuing his PhD at the University of Dar es Salaam. 

Mr. Bikesha has been very active in organizing training sessions and seminars regarding unity and reconciliation in Rwanda as well as abroad. He has attended various trainings in the field of transitional justice and peacebuilding. He has spent time in the US studying the American judicial system and has traveled to five US states as an international visitor of the US Department of State. He has worked with SIT since 2005, as both a homestay coordinator and lecturer. 

Bosco Habyarimana

Mr. Habyarimana is an assistant researcher and lecturer at the Center for Conflict Management at the National University of Rwanda. He lectures on conflict transformation as well as civic and peace education. He received his MA in peace education from the United Nations Mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. After obtaining his BEd in language teaching, Mr. Habyarimana worked for two years as a teacher of English and head of teaching staff. In 2006, he joined the National University of Rwanda as a tutorial assistant in the School for Foundation Language Skills, where he is in charge of teaching English to students ready to commence their university courses. 

Dr. Paul Rutayisire 

A Rwandan national, Professor Rutayisire holds a PhD in history from Fribourg University in Switzerland. He lectures at the National University of Rwanda and is director of the university's Center for Conflict Management. His fields of specialization are religion and society as well as conflict transformation and genocide studies. He has published extensively on Rwandan history and has participated in many crucial research projects on topics related to the post-genocide reconstruction of Rwanda. 

Bernard Noel Rutikanga 

Bernard Noel Rutikanga obtained a bachelor’s degree and a master's degree from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, between 1976 and 1980. At the undergraduate level he was trained to teach African history and African literature. His master's degree focused on contemporary African history. He taught for ten years at Dar es Salaam Teachers College before directing a Namibian and South African refugee scholarship program in Tanzania for five years in collaboration with the now-defunct World University Service, Geneva. Mr. Rutikanga has been teaching contemporary Rwandan history at the National University of Rwanda since 1995. He has published on reconciliation and ethnicity in Rwanda. He has also served as a judge in the Gacaca courts (the traditional jurisdiction system that has been trying people for genocide-related crimes committed in Rwanda between 1990 and 1994). In 2000 he was a Fulbright Scholar at Boston College in Massachusetts.

Fr. John Felix Opio 

Father Opio received a master of arts and bachelor of arts in philosophy from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Nairobi. He also holds a bachelor of arts in theology from Urban University in Rome and a postgraduate diploma in teacher education (PGDE-TE) from Makerere University. He is a registered graduate teacher in Uganda's Ministry of Education and Sports. From 2004 to 2008, Mr. Opio participated in peace and reconciliation activities in northern Uganda. He was an active participant in the Juba peace talks between the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the government of the Republic of Uganda through the mediation of the government of South Sudan and the United Nations. He served as executive director of Caritas Gulu Archdiocese and worked with a team of trained social workers with experience in service delivery during emergency and conflict situations. He is currently pursuing a PhD at Gulu University.

Dr. Kitara David Lagoro 

Dr. Lagoro is a lecturer at Gulu University in the Faculty of Medicine. He has a master of medicine (MMed) from Makerere University and holds a certificate in planning and management of health services from the Uganda Management Institute. Dr. Lagoro is a fellow of the Association of Surgeons of East, Central, and Southern Africa. Additionally, he holds a certificate in administrative law from the Law Development Centre and a postgraduate diploma in project planning and management from Gulu University. For his MMed thesis, he conducted research on "Possum Scoring Systems in Patients Undergoing Laparotomy in Mulago Hospital."

Henry Kilama Komakech 

Mr. Komakech has been a managing partner of Komakech-Kilama & Co. Advocates in Gulu, Uganda, from January 2001 until the present. He is currently pursuing a master's of peace and conflict transformation studies at Gulu University. He has previously received a postgraduate diploma in conflict management and peace studies from Gulu University, Uganda, and a postgraduate diploma in legal practice from the Law Development Centre in Kampala. He also holds a bachelor's of law degree (Hons.) from Makerere University and an accreditation as a mediator from Regent's College London and Cardiff Law School. He has received training from Cardiff Law School in negotiations, mediation, and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

Downtown GuluThe program includes two homestays, one in Kigali, Rwanda, and one in Gulu, Uganda. Both homestays are approximately two weeks in length, depending on programming and national holidays. Living conditions and family size can vary greatly, which prompts comparative conversations among students. Orientation sessions at the beginning and during the duration of the program help students to overcome and learn from the various cultural challenges they may encounter. 

The homestay experience is a highlight of students’ immersion in Kigali and Gulu culture. Students have formal program activities during the week, spend weekends with their host families, and may be invited to participate in cultural events, household chores, and other activities. In addition to learning how to navigate cultural difference, students have multiple learning opportunities in local markets, with shop keepers, and during other everyday encounters.

Homestay in Kigali, Rwanda

The program’s first homestay begins after orientation and takes place in Kigali, Rwanda. Kigali is a modern city where high-rise buildings are interspersed with shanty housing, reflecting its high income inequality. In addition to providing opportunities for cultural immersion, the homestay gives students the opportunity to study community relations, development efforts, local governance, and reconciliation from the perspectives of victims, perpetrators, returnees, and survivors. The homestay experience contributes greatly to the thematic seminar.

Homestays are spread all over Kigali and tend to be with Kigali’s middle class. While there may be exceptions, students should expect to have most modern amenities at the homestay: a TV, flush toilets, and showers. Homestay siblings are likely to be attending one of the modern schools in the city. 

Roads are generally well paved and well lit, traffic flows smoothly, and street signs have recently been set up. Plastic packaging is not allowed in Kigali, and you should not pack any plastic bags with your luggage. Students travel to and from school on the public transport system. During working days, students should expect to have their meals at local restaurants in town and close to the SIT office. On weekends, students are encouraged to have their meals at home, depending on the plans they make with their homestay families.

Homestay in Gulu, Uganda

The second homestay begins after orientation and takes place in Gulu, the urban heartland of the Acholi subregion. Gulu town is a bustling northern Ugandan hub with a sizable NGO/expat community, banks, restaurants and hotels, street food, and roadside and evening markets. This homestay provides the setting through which students explore the Ugandan family structure and how that structure fits into conflict mitigation. Students also learn about the perceptions Ugandans have about conflict and its causes. Students have formal program activities during the week but spend weekends with their families and may be invited to participate in cultural events, household chores, and other activities.

Given its relatively small geographical size, Gulu does not operate a public transportation system and students should expect to get to and from their homestay on foot. The town has a mix of rural and urban characteristics; hence, students may live in a home that has modern amenities such as a flush toilet, indoor shower, and cable TV, or they may live in a home that gets by without these amenities. Family size also varies but is typically large. During the week, students have about half of their lunches served at the office and the other half at local restaurants in Gulu town. On weekends, students may have their meals at the homestay depending on plans they make with their homestay families. 

Program Dates: Summer 2015

Program Start Date:  Jun 10, 2015

Program End Date:    Jul 22, 2015

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   Apr 1, 2015

SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $7,125

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who instruct students in
    • The historical, political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of conflicts in the Lake Victoria Basin
    • Concepts of justice and reconciliation, and their application both locally and internationally
    • Social, cultural, and political aspects of the region
  • All educational excursions to locations such as the Nakivaale Refugee Settlement, the Rwanda Genocide Memorial, the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, the Gacaca court system, and Ntarama and Nyamata
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period

Room & Board:$1,435

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. 
  • All homestays (approximately two weeks in Uganda and two weeks in Rwanda)
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered by SIT Study Abroad, directly or through a stipend, or through the homestay.

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare to Program Launch Site

International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: Not yet available.

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: Not yet available.

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.


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