American Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities

Volume 4, Number 1 (2019) pp 75-85 doi 10.20448/801.41.75.85 | Research Articles


Examining the Place of History in Peace and Conflict Education – Experience from Peace and Conflict Programme, University of Ibadan - Nigeria

Charles E. Ekpo 1
1 Peace and Conflict Studies Programme Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies University of Ibadan, Nigeria.


There is always a romance between the present and the past. Peace and conflict studies, as a discipline is not immune to such covering law as its praxis of context profiling suffices in establishing the dots between an event and its cause and effect connections. Nevertheless, context profiling might be superficial and sui generis to a specific conflict of interest. The observation, therefore, is that students of peace studies often lack sufficient depth in case studies and instances in their specialization, but for autodidacts which in the observed case is a rarity. Consequently, the focus of the work is to justify the need for the introduction of courses that address specific themes of history of conflict with peculiarity to various specializations in peace studies programmes. To the Ibadan Peace and Conflict Programme, we recommend the introduction of courses as (i) historical cases of border-related conflicts (for borderland specialists) (ii) historical cases of environment-related conflicts (for environmental conflict specialists) (iii) historical cases of international conflicts (for international conflict specialists) and (iv) selected themes of conflict in the history of Nigeria (for internal conflict specialists). The descriptive research design was utilized and data was qualitatively collected and presented. Primary data was generated through direct participant observation and secondary data sourced from existing literatures.

Keywords: Peace, Conflict, History, Peace and conflict education, History and peace education, Education for peace.

DOI: 10.20448/801.41.75.85

Citation | Charles E. Ekpo (2019). Examining the Place of History in Peace and Conflict Education – Experience from Peace and Conflict Programme, University of Ibadan - Nigeria. American Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, 4(1): 75-85.

Copyright: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Funding : This study received no specific financial support.

Competing Interests: The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

History : Received: 30 January 2019 / Revised: 5 March 2019 / Accepted: 10 April 2019 / Published: 8 July 2019.

Publisher: Online Science Publishing

Highlights of this paper
  • There is always a romance between the present and the past. Peace and conflict studies, as a discipline is not immune to such covering law as its praxis of context profiling suffices in establishing the dots between an event and its cause and effect connections.
  • The descriptive research design was utilized and data was qualitatively collected and presented. Primary data was generated through direct participant observation and secondary data sourced from existing literatures.


In a public lecture, organized by the Society for Peace Studies and Practice (SPSP) on 9th May, 2019, the governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, argued that the world, by nature, is a binary which is characterized by opposites and unending clash of disparate interests (Ajimobi, 2019). His position is neither eccentric nor novel. Of course conflict, as a phenomenon, is primeval and indeed Siamese of the history of human existence. Philosophers of old recognized this inevitability of conflict and had offered their perspective on it. To Heraclitus, “war is common to all and strife is justice”; to Thrasymachus, “justice is in the interest of the stronger”; to Plato, conflict is inherent to the tripartite members of the soul/state (see Eyo et al. (2011)) to social contract theoreticians such as Jean Jacque Rousseau (see Ekpo and Chime (2016)) Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, and John Locke, conflict resolution is the essence of organized human societies, hence, the emergence of the state system (see (Appadorai, 1968; Eyo et al., 2011)).

Indeed, the history of the world is dominated with themes of conflicts – empires rising against empires, states rising against states and nations slugging out with others for issues ranging from economic resources to value orientation. Data from Rourke and Boyer (2004) indicates that there were almost 1,000 wars during the last 1000 years with a total of 147 million casualties and that in all of recorded human history, the world has been free of significant inter/intra state war in only about 1 out of every 12 years. More so, during the First World War, 9.8 million people died while another 51.2 million met their untimely sepulcher during the Second World War (Rourke and Boyer, 2004). The Cold War birthed series of contagious and protracted conflicts but as Fukuyama (1992) would argue, liberal capitalism triumphed by the eve of the 1990s and history ended with the last man standing for world peace. But soon enough, civilizations started clashing yet again (Huntington, 1996) with autocratic East at loggerheads with liberal West (Kagan, 2008).

This gory past, inter alia, culminated in citizens around the globe scrambling for peace with various options and methods with the United Nations (1945) serving presently as the most sophisticated coordinating umbrella. Part of the strategies which has been highly invaluable in nurturing the fibers of peaceful dispositions amongst humans in particular and states in general has been peace education. The alibi for peace education is predicated on the “overwhelming research illustrating how education is used as a tool for fostering and exacerbating division and conflict in many regions in the world” (Bekerman and Zembylas, 2012). Such war culture has been deleterious to peace and informed UNESCO’s position that:

to counter the culture of war, let us build a culture of peace, that is to say a culture of social interaction, based on the principles of freedom, justice and democracy, tolerance and solidarity, and respect for all human rights; a culture that rejects violence and, instead, seeks a solution to problems through dialogue and negotiation; a culture of prevention that endeavours to detect the sources of conflicts at their very roots, so as to deal with them more effectively and, as far as practicable, to avoid them (qtd. in Korostelina (2013)).

Consequently, peace culture can be imbibed and propagated through structured information – a vacuum which peace studies, inter alia, has stepped in to fill (Galtung, 2007). Peace studies, just like health studies, “are clearly value-oriented: to save and promote life for all, to meet the basic needs for security, well-being, freedom, identity and a liveable environment (the opposites of death, misery, oppression, alienation and environmental degradation)”. The goal is to train not only theorists, but also practitioners who can apply what they have learned (Galtung and Fischer, 2013).

The problematic, however, is that just as peace and conflict studies is “interested in just ‘anything’” (Albert, 2007) it attracts interest from “just everybody” from diverse disciplines necessitating the adoption of multidisciplinary methods for its pedagogy. Even so, modeling a unique and befitting curriculum for maximal comprehension remains a dynamic process (Reardon, 2013) and, the author believes, should be based on general observation regarding the efficacy, effectiveness and articulation level of students. The author has observed, during his coursework in Peace and Conflict Programme in University of Ibadan, that lack of adequate cases and studies of past conflicts and their resolution strategies has not just truncated students’ depth and horizon, but has impaired their critical thinking capacity and their perception of contemporary social conflicts with numerous contagious antecedents. Several researches sponsored (see Albert et al. (2014)) tend to focus on peace and conflict studies’ analysis and methodology, than pedagogy, thereby creating a gab on the best teaching alternatives to explore by instructors in effective peace education as it relates to peculiar Nigerian educational milieu. This article contributes a bit to filling this gap by exploring the level to which history is important to efficient instruction, critical thinking and depth of peace and conflict students in peace education classes.


This work adopts the descriptive research approach and depends largely on primary data accumulated by the author during his one year (two semesters) course work in Peace and Conflict Programme at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. The instrument of data collection was the direct participant observation – the author had the opportunity to meet, observe, interact and engage about a hundred and twenty (120) students from the five (Internal, International, Environmental conflicts, Borderland, and Human Security) specializations under the peace and conflict programme. Aside attending all the compulsory classes, the author also took electives from the listed specializations with the view to observing how students across different specializations with distant and related backgrounds faired regarding depth in analysis, reasoning and understanding of contemporary (domestic and international) conflicts in their specializations. 

It was discovered that students with related backgrounds (who constituted about half of the students’ population) possessed greater analytical depth and understanding of contemporary conflict and the dynamics connecting its antecedents with its current forms. Others from distant disciplines lacked sufficient depth in case studies in their specialization, but for autodidacts, which in this case was a rarity. Absence of supervision or structured classes on antecedents of most conflicts made it that students were lackadaisical on issues of depth even when they confessed to its necessity, but held firmly to a linear opinion which they often time relayed as sacrosanct. The situation, therefore, hurts the quality of graduands, hence, the need to explore pedagogical options in solving that puzzle. 


3.1. Peace Education

If an inscription with the question “what is peace education?” is placed in front of students and spontaneous responses demanded, likely answers would suggest that it is “the kind of education that promotes peace” or “education aimed at preventing conflict”. Such is the foundation upon which simplified or complex definition of peace education is crafted. As argued by Torres et al (ctq. in Verma (2017)) the imperative for peace in concept and practice is borne of the fact that many progressive goals that once dominated public education debates that shared frameworks of peace education including inculcation of critical thinking and political literacy, fostering of self-esteem and self-actualization, cultivation of creativity and development of caring and tolerant citizens have been replaced by the economic imperatives of industry and global competitiveness.

Peace education as a concept, therefore, is multi-faceted in that it is the outcome of different educational approaches that are connected together to promote peace (Eyo et al., 2011). In the words of Reardon (2013) it “is educating toward political efficacy in the formation and pursuit of citizen action and public policy intended to move the world toward the achievement of a more just and less violent global order”. Peace education invokes the importance of learning how peace occurs and how it can be sustained (Carter, 2010). It stresses the potential of education in bringing about change and contributing towards transforming conflict and ‘taken-for-granted’ perspectives on peace (Bekerman and Zembylas, 2012).

Peace education is a “pragmatic project” that is basically “education for peace” (Read, 1950). Whether as “peace education” or “education for peace”, Read (1950) indentified a dual paradigm in capturing its meaning: (i) process of education designed to make men more peaceful [it is reformative and it’s a method of healing; and (ii) a process of education designed for men at peace [to keep existing peace, nurture positive frame of mind, and enhance social unity and creative activity] (p.13).

Peace education, the author argues, is the processes involved in preparing the mind for the inevitability and eventuality of conflict and how to prevent, predict, monitor and/or manage conflict as it emerges or transform existing conflict such that, rather than culminating in violence, it leads to better interpersonal or group relationships.

The focus of peace education is on enlightening students about concepts such as human rights, freedom, and environmental protection as well as skills for managing conflicts (Manojlovic, 2018). The goals of peace education illuminate the visions of life without violence and hopes for human manifestation of it. Peace education also seeks to conjure images of peace such that it overpowers the drive for violence when people are faced with conflict. It further aims to improve human relations, nourish students’ capabilities with skills that have been useful in problem solving, advance lessons that foster thoughts about future, as well as past and present challenges in bringing about peace (Carter, 2015). 

3.2. History

The idea of history is often captured in things as elementary as tenses, identity and memory. Right from kindergarten to nursery and primary levels, teachers inject a lot of energy on tenses to ensure that, irrespective of the language, pupils are able to make distinction between what had happened, what is happening and what is about to happen – hence, tracking time to distinguish between the past, present and future. The idea of identity is resonated in use of surname which is often called in pari passu with pupils’ first name with a subtle reminder that they did not sprout like weed, but possess a past and root to which they trace descent. Being able to recollect or remember what had happened, it is stressed, is not just useful for tests and assessments but general wellbeing as a person. These three demonstrations implicitly analogize the idea of history in its face value as man has always devised means to track the changes that take place around him from time immemorial.

History is most casually defined as the past; events of the past; or stories told of the past. We do not intend to harvest deeper than the premises upon which these ‘casual’ definitions anchor upon. According to Gardiner (ctd. in Majuk (2009)) history encompasses (i) the event and actions that take place in the past and (ii) the information given about those past events as well as the methods of investigation by which that information is gathered. In the words of Southgate (2005) it is the pursuit for the discovery of what ‘really happened’ in the past. History is basically a body of knowledge about the past activities of man in society or other events that have had influence on man, which is obtained through research or inquiry (Majuk, 2009).

With history, historians ‘speak for the past’ since “the past cannot carve itself up and/or articulate itself, but always need to be ‘spoken for’ and constructed” – historians therefore “distinguish between what is ‘historical’ and what is not and, beyond that, between what is ‘significant’ and what is relatively insignificant, within this ‘past’” (Jekins, 1995). Further commenting on the role of historians, Southgate (2005) avers thus:

by representing the present as the culmination of a long progressive development, historians have often confirmed and ratified the status quo, making it appear as nothing less than ‘natural’. That has been their purpose and their role: that’s what history has been for. And that has given to historians a very central and defining position, with enormous influence and power, and the sort of prestige that’s unlikely to be given up without a struggle.

Southgate’s position cannot be dissociated from the fact that history presents ex post facto conclusion of a reality based on accumulation of series of antecedents with a picture that the present we see is a product of past actions and that the future we will have might be eventually determined by decisions of the present.

The above makes history a mirror which is very vital to itself as a discipline and as a second discipline subject. The importance of history in learning from the past and understanding the present cannot be overemphasized (see Southgate, 2005). We, however, are interested in the usefulness of history in peace education. For the purpose of this motive, we define history as an interpretation of occurrence which involves the collection and analysis of information followed by description of findings (Carter and Pickett, 2014).  


Conflicts do not just emerge ex nihilo. For every conflict situation, there is always a political, economic and socio-cultural context upon which such conflict manifests and hitches. Attempt at analyzing and tracking the dynamics and nexus between these contextual factors and the emergence of a particular conflict is what is christened context profiling in conflict analysis.

Best (2006) believes, by his analysis, that context is synonymous with ‘conflict background’ and ‘history’. Accordingly, whether as background or context, Best (2006) avers that parties in a conflict and issues that are involved are a product of a “given historical, cultural, political and social contexts”. That the understanding of this background (context) is not just the foremost task but is also very crucial and critical to understanding the conflict itself. Therefore, in describing the context of any conflict, one must note three related, but crucial dimensions of contexts viz.: (a) the distant past [which spans through centuries and/or decades; (b) the immediate past [which is interested in the years of enduring and decaying relationship between parties; and (c) triggering past [which tracks the days of violent escalation] (Best, 2006). Best acknowledges the fact that the essence of context profiling “is not just for the mere sake of history in itself, but because such history will assist the understanding of current events in the conflict” (Best, 2006).

The above position amplifies the relevance and indispensible nature of history in grasping and analyzing conflict. In specific conflict situation, it is relatively practicable for a peace and conflict expert to read, analyze and triangulate positions in literatures, and acquire a critical and in-depth knowledge of the totality of a conflict due to relative availability of resources, independence, ease/absence of inspection/supervision, years of experience and readership of similar or related conflicts cases. To such researcher’s advantage, too, is a circle of experts and colleagues who offer perspectives and variant interpretations which offer the scholar diverse standpoints to drive her/his investigation.

Inversely, the author’s observation during his course work in the Peace and Conflict Programme, University of Ibadan, is that for each areas of specialization, a good number of students struggle to accumulate depth for criticality in discussing or even profiling certain conflict contexts. For instance, students who specialized in internal conflicts (conflicts in Nigeria) tend to base their analysis solely on the Bestian “triggering past” and often defend their positions with vigor and energy. The observed problem is further complicated by the fact that almost every conflict in Nigeria is contagious with those that occurred decades ago. In fact, we might not be totally out of context if we say that the history of Nigeria is the history of conflict and that most themes in the history of Nigeria are conflicting: slave trade, precolonial inter-state rivalries, jihads, colonialism, amalgamation, constitutional conferences, colonial delineation formula, independence, preferred system of governments, elections, party politics/alliances, population census, military coups, state creations, civil war, resource nationalism, ethnic militias, secessionist movements, insurgencies etc. are all conflicts with mutual historical inclusivity1.

A student cannot appreciate or be critical in the discussion on secessionist impulse in south east Nigeria without first getting grounded in the colonial politics of interest and diffidence between the three major ethnic groups (Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo), the dynamics of the putsch in January 15, 1966, situations that surrounded the civil war (1967-1970) and the politics that characterized its aftermath2. Neither can they appreciate the discourses on Boko Haram insurgency without a detailed study of the situations that surrounded the Sokoto Jihad of 1804, the transformation that followed the jihad, British policy on the emirate and the subsequent politics of Sharia jurisprudence3.

Even so, perspectives and standpoint on the above highlighted ‘conflicts’ are conflicting. Therefore, for students of internal conflict, establishing the dots and analyzing these conflicts seemed herculean. This, the author believes, is not unconnected to the fact that a good number of the regular students are actually irregular and therefore, struggle to balance the ‘rigorous nature’ of the academic calendar with the natural instincts to survive through gainful employment which they must protect. The author also observed that some autodidacts actually read up but grasped the various themes at the superficial and/or linear perspective. Inability to be exposed to diverse perspectives and opinions on a particular conflict context is in itself dangerous as it culminates in a ‘one-way’ reality which is blamed for stereotypic tendencies.

Ordinarily, a peace and conflict student specializing on internal conflict should be able to catalogue and analyze the major conflicts in Nigeria and how they affect the dynamics of present intergroup relations. Same should be of the students specializing in borderland studies. Students of international conflict should be able to discuss the origins of international system, the various clashes of empires, kingdoms, states, ideologies, civilizations, and of course theories, and connect the sinew between those past conflicts and the trajectories of present conflicts. As environment has instigated several cold and violent conflicts, students of environmental conflicts should be able to grasp a chronicle of them with special attention to how they emerged and how resolutions were arrived at (for the ones resolved). Students of human security should be ‘jack of all trade’ by understanding the dynamics of all these conflicts or better still, restrict themselves to the ‘geographical’ scope of their interest. These, in the author’s observation, were not the case – hence, the essence of this work.  


For every past explored, there are hidden treasures which could be highly invaluable to the present if properly harnessed. Such could be said, certainly, of peace education and historical intuition for understanding conflict analysis. The aforementioned could have informed the division of peace studies into a tripartite formula by the pioneer peace scholar, Johan Galtung when he categorized peace studies into (i) empirical peace studies [systematic comparison of theories with empirical realities]; (ii) critical peace studies [systematic comparison of empirical data with value]; and (iii) constructive peace studies [systematic comparison of theories with values] – the three he broadly described as “peace studies in the past, present, and future tenses, or modes, respectively” (Galtung, 1996).

Carter (2010) had noted that “beyond spirituality, secular philosophies throughout human history have also advanced notions about peace and processes humans can use for achieving it in the midst of conflict”. Hence, “in peace education, students learn several historical examples of how thinkers in different cultures produced guidelines for human pursuits of peace”. Therefore, teaching the history or peace processes, identifying current variations of them and knowing which are developmentally appropriate (Carter, 2010) could be very integral in peace studies and conflict analysis. For until students and lecturers “can imagine or connect with stories”, we, definitely, cannot begin to define peace but as we expose intersectionalities between historical memory, human suffering and lived experiences…we begin to grapple with peace” (Verma, 2017).

Teaching in conflict and peace studies is, metaphorically, an incubation period that demands a combination of several energies to hatch a virile mind. Therefore, in building students’ capacity both as emerging scholars and peace practitioners, there is a need to get them ingrained with peculiar or related cases and antecedents to liberalize their mindset and expose them to a world of perspectives. Manojlovic (2018) identified history as such energy that nourishes peace studies when he submitted that:

The history of conflict and the way it is told is especially important in relation to students who do not even have an actual memory of the conflict themselves, but are socialized and embedded into certain culturally accepted frameworks of thinking and acting that are fundamentally prejudicial and close-minded (p.20).

Karina V. Korostelina, in her treatise History Education in the Formation of Social Identity, identified a plethora of connections between history, peace and conflict education. According to her, history is “a powerful tool” that can alter the dynamics of identity-based conflicts, reduce negative perceptions and intergroup tensions and promote intergroup mutual understanding and reconciliation between conflicting parities. How does it do that? Korostelina explained thus:

It works by challenging existing prejudices, stereotypes, and justifications for conflicts by providing alternative interpretations, multiple perspectives, and narratives of positive intergroup relations and cooperation. It targets basic beliefs in the causation of violence, reduces biases toward the other party in a conflict, and develops shared perceptions and overarching identities (p.2).

Furthermore, history challenges in-group/out-group position and explanation of conflict and by so doing, improves the relationships between parties involved in conflict and encourages peaceful interaction that resists violence and resolves conflict, thus, promoting a culture of peace. Also, rather than exclusively stressing incompatible differences between ethnic or religious identities, history cultivates a common regional identity and concept of humanity that rests on values of tolerance, solidarity, collective well-being, and shared prosperity, and by implication, forming common ground for culture of peace. Most importantly, history offers insights on the strategies adopted by peoples of the ‘old’ to evade violent conflicts and embrace justice, equality, shared prosperity, and peace – such historic narratives promote critical thinking and reflection on identity, power, dominance, and the justification for relational values and ethical principles of mutuality and cooperation, resulting in movement toward the culture of peace (Korostelina, 2013).

The problematic in peace education in Nigeria, as the author had observed, lies in its availability for ‘just everybody’. Student of peace studies from distant academic backgrounds tend not to be familiar with the antecedents of contemporary conflicts around them and as such, struggle to develop sound/balanced perspectives. Invariably, wielding the confidence and authoritative voice in conversations (without the risk or placing facts with factoids) and engaging in critical discussions and debates on the nation become a challenge. Korostelina (2013) believes the challenge of lag in students’ depth and criticality in conflict analysis can be remedied if students are exposed “not only to the triumph of history, but also the failures, the tragedies and the humiliations…Students must be trusted to examine history in all of its complexities, including its legacies of prejudice and discrimination, resilience and courage” – this process culminates in critical mindset (p.9.).

If critical thinking in peace studies could be defined to mean “presenting students with an argument about which they are indifferent and asking them to evaluate it on the basis of logical consistency, evidence offered and substantiated, and clarity of presentation” (Noddings, 2012) students must read and accumulate quite a lot about cases and historical antecedents of their respective specializations in the field of peace studies before they can criticize intellectually and intelligently. This is why (Carter and Pickett, 2014) admonished that:

Youth[s] can learn analysis of conflict through identification of its multiple meanings. They discern in the literature, and bring to it, diverse perspectives of the situations presented. Looking at a situation through different viewpoints than others expands their awareness. The ability to discern different ways of seeing the same situation aids their understanding of multiple needs. Youth learn distinction of perceptions that an analysis of a situation requires. Through practice with these skills, they can discern imbalanced history and then seek more information to reinterpret what happened (p.124).

Noddings (2012) asserts that the best way to prepare teaching structure for courses is to emphasize history and its connection to other courses and human interests (p.146). Peace studies should not be an exception if efficacy must be the watch word. Even so, if we are to go by Bekerman and Zembylas (2012) position that “knowledges and emotions in schools of troubled societies [like Nigeria] are forms of power…and are never neutral or objective but are structured and produced through certain mechanisms”, then history is very pertinent for students of peace studies to explore so as to retrodict, make their independent inferences and liberate their minds from semi-structured sophistries. 

In a clime like Nigeria where every man is a product of a society, discussions engineered in class both by instructors and students are mostly shredded ‘positions’ with regular caveat as “in my opinion”, “I believe”, “my position is”, “based on my experience”, “I think”, etc. The implications is that the ‘thinkers’ do not just think for themselves but the listeners whom for not being privy to such information on the wider context, are condemned to model a linear thinking line. Our position is not that students cum instructors should not share their views and opinions in their peace studies classes. We emphatically advocate for methods and curriculum that would sharpen students’ depth, reflex and criticality as it relates to their various areas of specializations – hence, the case for history in peace and conflict education.


 The author has attempted to justify the need for the incorporation of aspect of historical studies in the quest to meeting the depth and criticality demands of students of different specializations in peace and conflict studies. Such impulse is borne of his personal observations during his coursework years at the Peace and Conflict Studies Programme at the University of Ibadan. The observation was that, except for autodidacts and persons from related disciplines, students of various specializations lacked depth of conflict cases peculiar to their areas of concern and by implication had blurred perspectives not just about the past interplays of conflict dynamics but also, the connection between those antecedents and similar conflicts at present.  The author also discovered that while some students had inclinations for reading up past cases of conflicts, other did not. Most of those who expressed such interests of reading up showed very little commitment at actualizing such aspirations majorly because of their ‘regular irregularity’ or the fact that such knowledge demand lacked structured incentives and was not supervised as a requirement to merit a degree in any of the specializations. However, students with background in history, international relations, and political science performed relatively better in terms of depth, articulation and critical assertiveness during conversations.

It was also observed that this aforementioned lag did very little or nothing at restraining students from airing their perspectives and strong-held opinions and defending them with energy and rigidity. The scenario was rather most conspicuous in courses required for students specializing in internal conflict (the author’s specialization) as the instructors often threw the floor open for debates and opinions regarding ‘nascent’ security challenges as Boko Haram, secessionist movements, ethnicity and ethnic conflicts and religious crises in Nigeria. Commentaries were usually narrow, superficial, uncritical and predictable and were presented as facts and often terminate with the unapologetic caveat, “just my opinion”.

The author has identified and has attempted to justify the fact that history is crucial in preparing the minds of peace and conflict students towards critical thinking, depth accumulation and sound judgment. Not just any history, but that modeled to deductively furnish students with conflict lessons of the past with regard to their specializations.

One might question the justification for history in a volatile and sensitive polity as Nigeria. Albeit, even as the presentation of the past poses some serious implications, “ignoring history can lead to even more severe problems….It is possible to get out of one’s own past, re-write one’s history, but it is impossible to change the facts that have already taken place. What is done cannot be undone. The society that does not want to understand and accept its own past is condemned to repeating it sometime in the future” (Korostelina, 2013). Alternatively, ‘bad memories’ in discussing conflict history can be well managed if instructors (i) do not treat loved memories with scorn; (ii) pay attention to both feelings and facts; (iii) discuss both what happened and how people felt/feel about such event; (iv) discuss the reasons for the feelings generated then and now (Noddings, 2012) (v) understand and honor the multi-perspectival nature of the past and realize that different groups experienced the same event differently (Manojlovic, 2018) and (vi) observe absolute symmetry of victimhood (Bekerman and Zembylas, 2012).


Based on the observed problems and the recourse to the fact that every research work is designed to solve specific problems, the author advances the following recommendations: 

  • That the Peace and Conflict Programme at the Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ibadan – Nigeria (as well others with similar challenges identified) should work closely and in tandem with the history department in the institution to model specific history oriented courses that would suffice for the depth lag experienced across students of all specializations;
  • That the following courses be introduced viz. (i) historical cases of border-related conflicts (for borderland specialists) (ii) historical cases of environment-related conflicts (for environmental conflict specialists) (iii) historical cases of international conflicts (for international conflict specialists) and (iv) selected themes of conflict in the history of Nigeria (for internal conflict specialists) – specialists in human security should be at leverage to pick from any of the suggested;
  • That the continuous assessment for the courses should depart from the conventional “term paper approach” to a review of special paper (primary document). By this, students are allowed the freedom to pick a primary document from any of the conflict themes understudy and do a thorough analysis of it with supportive documents and perspectives;
  • For each of the courses suggested above, emphasis should be paid to tracking the possible  causative connections between the various themes considered and if possible, identify the web and dynamics that connect ‘old’ and ‘present’ conflict themes in each areas of specialization;
  • Instructors should be made to pay special attention to the methods suggested above in the management of bad memories -  this is very important, otherwise, the approach might boomerang and the essence of the innovation would be defeated;
  • The above suggested courses should be introduced to students by first semester of studies to fortify them for the task of critical analysis which is the hallmark of peace debates and conflict analysis;
  • If for any reason implementation is stalled, students of peace studies could be allowed to pick electives from related department, provided, it would remedy the lag identified in the work. 


The author is grateful to Mr. Etuwede Emmanuel, of the Peace & Conflict Programme, Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, for his useful comments and proofreading of the original manuscript.


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About the Authors

Charles E. Ekpo
Peace and Conflict Studies Programme Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

Corresponding Authors

Charles E. Ekpo

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