Clifford Okwany is a political scientist working at the University in Nairobi where he pursues his PhD studies. He has been selected, among nearly 90 applicants, by the Research Council of the Åland Islands Peace Institute to be the Åland Peace Fellow 2023.
Clifford Okwany is a political scientist trained in Kenya and Norway. He is writing on Kenya’s security, currently as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Nairobi. He is also an expert in international security and foreign policy with a focus on ontological security, and theories of conflict and violence.
So, why did you apply to be the next Åland Peace Fellow?
– The Åland Islands Peace Institute’s focus on conflicts, demilitarization, and security is of great interest to my study focus on ontological security, conflict, and violence theories such as the frontier, and my research work on counterterrorism, counter-violent extremism, radicalization, deradicalization, community-based armed groups, and non-state-armed groups. In addition, the institute’s focus on the minorities’ concern and development was also of great interest to my latest work on spatial theories, looking at the minority communities affected by the changing developments and dynamics of territoriality—control of spaces and organized violence—monopolizing/ legitimizing control or the use of force within northern Kenya.
What interests you most in the Åland Peace Institute’s work?
– There is globally rapid development and discoveries of resources such as minerals, oil, and potential renewable energy such as geothermal and wind, and the conservation agenda with an economic aim of tourism is increasingly shaping the natural resources, labour laws and land use in the pastoral frontier by infrastructuring—shaping and transforming these spaces. Such agendas are increasingly shaping securitization in the Kenyan frontier, creating security assemblage—government and private entities controlling these spaces, affecting environmental politics, while the notion of sustainable development impacts these communities’ livelihood. Thus, the institutes’ expertise on conflict and securitization theories is an excellent opportunity to learn, discuss my empirical knowledge and deepen my theoretical understanding of borders and the frontier spaces.
What are you hoping this experience will give you?
– The Åland Islands Peace Institute’s vast expertise is an opportunity to advance concepts such as territoriality, organized violence, and ontological security in the horn of Africa, giving international attention to the African frontier. As a 2023 peace fellow, I hope to engage with the institute’s research work, experience, and network in my two months stay on the island and produce academic work. In addition, I hope to gather sound experience and theoretical practice and further develop my expertise and understanding of the Åland Islands experience.