Dr. Kelemework Tafere Reda

Affiliated Organizations
  • Gerda Henkel and IIE/SRF Fellow, Frobenius Insitute for Research in Cultural Anthropology, Goethe University of Frankfurt, Germany
  • Researcher, Conflict and Politics in Ethiopia (COPE Project-IRD, France) and AFRICA-Apparel Project (Denmark)
  • Associate Professor of Anthropology, Mekelle University, Ethiopia

Please tell us about your work in peace education. What are the issues and contexts in which you have worked? What have been some of the challenges you've encountered and how have you overcome them?

Ethiopia is a conflict-ridden country in the Horn of Africa. Political actors often used mainstream and social media outlets to spread divisive messages and hate speech, ultimately resulting in ethnic tensions and warfare in the country. We have had a devastating war in the last two years (2020-2022) which claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people and caused massive displacements and infrastructural wreckage.

As a displaced scholar myself with a training background in Educational Psychology and Social Anthropology, I have a strong interest in the exploration of the cultural basis of conflict and conflict resolution, peace education, and school curricula reform programs at various levels.

Previously, I have conducted research on grassroots justice, customary peacemaking and peacebuilding in Ethiopia. My current focus is on the ethnicization of political conflicts in Ethiopia and the prospects for a constructive dialogue and peaceful coexistence among different stakeholders.

As a member of the ‘Humans for Peace Education (HOPE)’ project, I would like to promote ideals of preventing diplomacy, reconciliation and post conflict social reconstruction with prime focus on social justice, equitability, and solidarity among human beings regardless of differences in race, ethnicity, gender or religious creed.

How and why did you start working in peace education? What is your motivation for this work?

Peaceful resolution of conflicts has always been in my mind since childhood thanks to the informal training I used to receive from my father who worked as a judge in the court system. He inspired me with his thoughts of the need to ensure a just peace in the world of humans. I grew up in a conservative society in which the culture of violence prevailed as a dominant norm in human relations and people often tried to resolve conflicts by brute force.  In the course of my training, I came to realize that violence only begets violence and hence cultural orientations that nurture conflicts must be properly addressed in order to ensure sustainable peace at all levels of society.

What keeps you going? How do you sustain yourself in this work?

Violent conflicts have continued to occur in Ethiopia even today.  There are still deliberate moves by internal and external elements to sow seeds of discord among members of various ethnic groups in the country. This makes the road to peace very bumpy given the buildup of historical hiccups and social cleavages over a long time. I believe I need to invest more time and energy to try to understand the structural and proximate causes of the conflicts in Ethiopia and look ways to mitigate them through peace education and cultural transformations.