Pedagogies of peace and conflict in the Great Lakes region

All over the world we see that conflict breeds conflict. Research has identified a number of political, economic and demographic conflict risk factors, yet we still understand little about why accumulated conflict risk factors only sometimes pay out in new violence. But what if we take more seriously what ordinary people do in shaping dynamics of conflict and peace?

In this project, we critically investigate what ordinary people do in conflict regeneration and peace. Our team uniquely focuses on the informal pedagogies of peace and conflict within families. By identifying how people transmit lessons of past conflict to novices, we can gauge how new generations come to prevent, endure, accept, or re-enact violence. The work of our team is highly innovative in that it brings together insights from mental health research on the intergenerational transmission of trauma and anthropological methodologies used to understand young people’s socialisation into specific cultures and societies. We thus investigate people’s ‘complicity’ in peace and conflict by unraveling the implicit, explicit, verbal, embodied and materialised 'teachings' of conflict and peace. We employ in-depth ethnographic research among conflict-affected families. We conduct research with caregivers and children part of the same families. This allows us to understand parents’ goals and practices, how children take part in shaping the pedagogies, as well as to gauge how parental messages are interpreted by children.

The Pedagogies of Peace research team pilots these questions in the African Great Lakes region, notorious for (historically) repeated outbreaks of mass violence. Our focus is on Rwandan, Burundian and Congolese families currently residing as citizens or refugees in Rwanda. The different categories of families experience varied constraints as citizens and refugees, and in different ways look back to past and/or ongoing conflict and war.

We aim for the project findings to help us critically interrogate and contribute to the recent ‘local turn’ in peace and conflict studies. Furthermore, we aim to work towards informing peacebuilding policy in ways that account for the aspirations and agency of ordinary people – parents and children. Perhaps even more importantly, our findings will be shared directly with ordinary people – parents and children – to allow them to take part in shaping their own, peaceful futures, which until now, is often left to governments and peacebuilding experts.

Our research team consists of researchers from the African Studies Centre Leiden of Leiden University and researchers at the Research Center for Mental Health and Behavior at the University of Rwanda. The principal investigator for this project is Dr. Lidewyde Berckmoes (ASCL).

Photo: Sunrise from inside a family house, Rwanda, 2020, copyright LH Berckmoes

Senior researcher

Lidewyde Berckmoes

Affiliated Junior, Postdoc and Project researchers at ASCL

Juul Kwaks

External members of the research team

Stefan Jansen, University of Rwanda

Armel Karubu, University of Rwanda

Verena Mukeshimana, University of Rwanda

Benjamin Tuyishimire, University of Rwanda

Theoneste Rutayisire, Community Based Sociotherapy Rwanda 

Clémentine Kanazayire, University of Rwanda

Eugène Rutembesa, University of Rwanda

Reverien Interayamahanga, independent consultant

Research project
2022 to 2023



Informal pedagogies, parenting, families, legacies of conflict, peace and conflict, Rwanda, Burundian refugees, Congolese refugees

Funding and cooperation


NWO Aspasia premie


University of Rwanda