Meet the new researcher: Dr Lidewyde Berckmoes

The ASCL has recently recruited two new researchers: Dr Lidewyde Berckmoes, who started on 1 October as Assistant Professor in Regional Conflict in Contemporary Africa, and Dr Rahmane Idrissa, who will start early 2019 as Assistant Professor in Islam in Contemporary Africa. To start off with, we interviewed Dr Berckmoes about her research topics and future plans.

You have conducted research into conflict in the Great Lakes region, in particular Burundi and Rwanda, with a focus on children. When do young people contribute to peace building, and when will they relapse into conflict?

‘In my PhD I looked into the role of young people in contributing to peace building in the aftermath of conflict in Burundi. One of the findings was that the conflict had profound effects on how young people related to each other. For instance, young people employed elusive tactics, such as hiding specifics about their identity in order to protect themselves, both out of fear and with a hope to enable better futures. Yet this contributed to widespread distrust between people also after the war and hampered social cohesion.

In a subsequent study in Burundi, I investigated with colleagues of the University of Amsterdam and UNICEF, if parents did or did not transfer their war-time experiences to the next generation. The role of the parents, often the mother, appears to be very important. If she showed to be supportive, children would often have less difficulties at school, fulfilled their household roles and were more helpful to neighbours, among others.

In Rwanda we looked at: how does transmission of the legacy of violence to the next generation take place? Children experienced the consequences of the violence through a variety of pathways, including through their family’s economic situation. For instance, whether they could go to school or not was affected by political and transitional justice interventions. To give an example, among parents who had to pay reparations, children sometimes could not go to school because there would be no money left. So indirectly these kids were punished for their parents’ deeds. Though our findings did not show a cycle of violence, which is sometimes feared in Rwanda, the transgenerational effects of the violence on children we found, are in the literature often seen as risk factors for violence.

In brief, in the study in Rwanda we showed the importance of policies and socio-political environment, in the study with UNICEF the positive role caregivers could play, while my PhD study emphasized young people’s own strategies in violence dynamics. In Burundi, like in many conflict-affected countries, you could see that the patronage system and economic motives played a role for younger people in the war and its aftermath: if you are affiliated with the people in power, you will be given a job more easily, which could be a reason for youth to (re)mobilize.’

With the growing number of young people in Africa, do you think the patronage system can survive?

‘My feeling is that the patronage system starts to show cracks. There may be too many young people now to favour them all. So we might see and we already do see some changes, with young people calling for alternative ways of power and redistribution. The demographic driver is something you have to take into account when doing research into conflict.’

What will your new research be about?

‘We see that local conflicts get entangled with regional conflicts, e.g. when countries intervene in a neighbour’s conflict or become indirectly involved in wars. My interest is in the regional networks that then develop and may steer regional conflict. Regional conflicts appear heavily influenced by geopolitical interests, doings of government, but I am also interested in what people, like youth, do in building and using the networks that affect regional conflict dynamics. In the Great Lakes region you see that rebel movements for Burundi, for instance, are built within the Congo and build on relations with other rebel movements present there  – partly by state influence, but not exclusively. People who move, how do they forge those networks? Does this have to do with resources, religion, ideologies? And it’s interesting to compare conflict dynamics in different regions: for example, the Great Lakes region, where resources are seen as a primary source of conflict and the Sahel region, where religion is said to be an important source of conflict, but is that so? I am writing proposals to do more research into this.’


Eichelsheim, VI, LH Berckmoes, B Hola, T Rutayisire, A Richters. (2018). Before my time? Addressing intergenerational legacies of genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Intervention: Journal of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Conflict Affected Areas.

Berckmoes, LH, VI Eichelsheim, T Rutayisire, A Richters, B Hola. (2017). How Legacies of Genocide Are Transmitted in the Family Environment: A Qualitative Study of Two Generations in Rwanda. Societies, 7, 24.

Berckmoes, LH, JTVM De Jong, R Reis. (2017). Intergenerational transmission of violence and resilience: A qualitative study of why some Burundian children thrive despite duress. Global Mental Health.

Berckmoes, LH. (2017). (Re)producing Ambiguity and Contradictions in Enduring and Looming Crisis in Burundi. Ethnos, 82 (5): 925-945 (online Nov 2015).


2016-2018 Postdoc Researcher, Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR)

2014-2016 Postdoc Researcher/ Research Consultant, UNICEF Burundi and Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam

2013-2014 Postdoc Researcher, Department of Technology and Society Studies, Maastricht University

2014 PhD: Elusive Tactics: Urban Youth Navigating the Aftermath of War in Burundi, VU University Amsterdam (promoters Prof. Jan Abbink and Prof. Ria Reis), Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, VU University Amsterdam

2008 Advanced Master in Development Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen

2008 Research Master African Studies (Leiden University)

2006 Master in Cultural Anthropology and Sociology of Non-western Societies, University of Amsterdam

Interviews with other newly started researchers:

Rahmane Idrissa: Assistant Professor in Islam in Contemporary Africa

Annachiara Raia, University Lecturer African Languages and Cultures