Twelve African scholars and policy makers will join experts from
Europe and the United States at MIT's first international Conference on
African Renewal this weekend.
The conference, running from Thursday, March 6, to Sunday, March
9, was organized by Richard Joseph, a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Visiting Professor in MIT's Department of Political Science. It will
commemorate the 40th anniversary of the independence of Ghana, declared
on March 6, 1957. The keynote speaker at the welcoming dinner on
Thursday, March 6, will be Dr. K. Afari Gyan, chairman of the Electoral
Commission of Ghana.
On Saturday morning, March 8, representatives of the International
Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the National Democratic
Institute (NDI) will discuss the efforts that helped Ghana conduct
successful elections in 1996, four years after disputed elections were
held. Later in the day, Mr. Afari Gyan will participate in a public
forum entitled "Ghana: A Model for African Renewal" at the Tang Center's
The forum on Ghana will be followed by a roundtable discussion of
the crisis in Zaire and Rwanda, also at the Wong Auditorium and open to
the public. Ambassador Herman Cohen of the Global Coalition for Africa,
the former Assistant Secretary of State for East Africa, will take part
in this roundtable, chaired by Margaret Vogt of the International Peace
At least 25 papers on the themes of state, conflict and democracy
will be presented at the conference. Participants include scholars from
MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, Barnard, UCLA, the University of
Wisconsin, Tufts, Vassar, Georgetown, the University of Uppsala in
Sweden, the Africa Institute, the Michelin Institute in Norway, the
United States Institute of Peace and other prestigious organizations.
"We have experts on every region in Africa," said Dr. Joseph. "We'll
brainstorm on many important contemporary issues."
Dr. Joseph, a professor at Emory University's Carter Center in
Atlanta, organized similar conferences at that institution in 1989, 1990
and 1994. He believes holding this meeting at MIT has special
significance. "It is important for the major research universities to
take Africa seriously," said Dr. Joseph. "I'm disappointed at the lack
of leadership in Washington on African affairs. That places the onus on
the academic community to generate better analyses and innovative
thinking. The scholars at this conference can take up this challenge."