Critical Perspectives on Gender Violence in the Eastern Congo

Sara Meger (left) and Charlotte Mertens at the IPCS

The long running conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has become known to international audiences for the high rate of sexual violence and rape committed as acts of war. At the penultimate AFSAAP-IPCS seminar in Melbourne on Thursday 10th of October, two papers contextualised this phenomenon and critically appraised the global response.

Sara Meger, a researcher on gender and international relations at the University of Melbourne, presented the first of these papers under the title “The Fetishisation of Sexual Violence in International Security Studies”. The premise of Meger’s argument was that International relations scholarship has erred in treating sexual violence in war as an isolated, if not aberrant, phenomenon. The dominant narrative treats it as an exceptional form of gender-based violence, and the sole form capable of destabilising international peace and security. Conversely, her paper questioned the current fixation in international security studies and in policy on this particular form of gender violence and offered a critique of narrow approaches to understanding wartime sexual violence that ignore the larger social structures in which this violence is taking place. She advocated a structural perspective and situates this form of violence against women within the broader framework of international political economy and argued that violence against women must be understood in relation to material inequalities between genders: that sexual violence in war must be positioned on the continuum of violence used in the maintenance and (re)construction of the global gender hierarchy. Running through the presentation was a trenchant critique current UN framework for responding to sexual violence in war, claiming that it systematically fails to address the gendered social, economic, and political inequalities undergirding gender-based violence.

The second paper, “Rape Claims in the Survival Economy of the Kivus, Democratic Republic of Congo”, was presented by Charlotte Mertens, a PhD candidate also at the University of Melbourne. In harmony with the preceding paper, (more…)

October 13th, 2013

Kenya terrorist attack

AFSAAP is seriously concerned by the al Shabab terror attack in Nairobi. More innocent lives have been lost as the Somali conflict spills over the border into Kenya.

AFSAAP will be hosting a seminar at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies on Somalia soon, and will continue to provide expert analysis on the causes and consequences of violence in the East African region. Please contact the AFSAAP secretary at, or on (+61) 0406 334 620 for further information.


September 23rd, 2013

Sekai Nzenza and Veena Sharma Seminars

SekaiSekai Nzenza, well known Zimbabwean author and long time friend of AFSAAP, read two of her short stories and convened a long discussion on her country’s politics in the wake of its recent election on the 22td of August at the Institute of Poscolonial Studies (IPCS). The stories were organised under the heading “glimpses of the everyday in Zimbabwe”, and illuminated aspects of the daily struggle in contemporary Zimbabwe. While these ostensibly told the stories of daily occurrences, their deeper message resonated with racial, political and postcolonial notes. The first “Poverty, and the desire for something foreign” told of the search for second hand clothes in a Harare market, and how their European origins carry a sense of foreign panacea to local ills. Her second story, “African Beauty and the shades of blackness” revealed a conversation between the author and her niece about the use of skin lightening creams, and the racial beauty complexes that their use invokes. The stories can both be accessed at the page of the Zimbabwean Herald, where they were originally published.


August 22nd, 2013

AFSAAP and the “Celebrate African Australians Awards”

Alec Thornton accepts AFSAAP’s award from Kathy Novak

AFSAAP and one of its former Vice-Presidents have been recognised at the annual “Celebrate African Australians” awards at Parliament House, Canberra. The ceremony aims to highlight the contributions of African Australians to the broader community. AFSAAP received the ‘Friend of Africa’ award, intended to “showcase Australian organisations, businesses and individuals providing wonderful services and assistance to African Australians.” Dr Alec Thornton, current Vice-President of AFSAAP, received the award on behalf of the organisation from SBS news presenter Kathy Novak.

The awards also recognised the personal contribution of former AFSAAP Vice-President Apollo Nsubuga-Kyobe, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame. This follows the “Living Legends Award” that Apollo received from the same organisation in 2012. His contribution was recognised by  the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy, who presented him with his award.


July 27th, 2013

Radio Télévision Guinée (RTG) Music Archive Project by Dr. Graeme Counsel

AFSAAP’s Treasurer Dr. Graeme Counsel has announced the completion of his incredible work in cataloguing and archiving 9,410 songs which constitute the sound archive of Radio Télévision Guinée (RTG). This project included the digitisation of thousands of reels of audio recorded on magnetic tape. They have now been catalogued in the British Library’s Sound and Moving Image Catalogue and are available for listening to in the reading rooms.

Graeme was asked by The British Library to write a blog at their web site which describes the RTG music archival projects. Here is the link –

Those with an appetite for more can read Graeme’s personal accounts of his archival projects in Guinea at his Radio Africa website., and

July 15th, 2013

AFSAAP University Reading Groups

As part of its continuing mission to expand the scope of African Studies in Australian universities, the AFSAAP executive reminds its members that it is looking to broaden its program of reading groups. In the this scheme, AFSAAP purchases titles related to African studies and shares these with reading groups based at individual universities. Interested parties should see the application form on the reading group homepage, and note that sponsorship is contingent on an annual feedback process. For more information on this program, please contact

June 15th, 2013

Africa Day event at Flinders University

Africa Day 2013 at Flinders University

AFSAAP sponsored an Africa Day Celebration at Flinders University. The rain held off for over 200 participants who enjoyed a free Aussie style BBQ with African music and a live drumming performance. Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Prof Michael Barber opened the event and announced the university’s commitment to its relationship with the countries of Africa with the news that Finders University will be sending 28 boxes of current academic textbooks to Jimma University in Ethiopia.  Flinders University is also a member of the Australia-Africa University Network.

Mr. Stephen Okello, an Australia Awards scholar from Africa talked about his experiences as a student in Australia, and the President of the African Students Association, Mr. Stephen Tongun gave a inspirational speech on the importance of Africa Day. Mr. John Mugabushaka, a PHD student at Flinders university, performed as the master of ceremonies and rallied everyone’s enthusiasm.  AFSAAP President Tanya Lyons was encouraged to dance by her students undertaking her topics on African Studies at Flinders University, and the latter did a brilliant job cooking the BBQ with the help of the African Students Association at Flinders University.  The celebration carried on into the afternoon, with many friendships developing, and many networking opportunities fulfilled. (more…)

May 26th, 2013

“Contemporary Australian Foreign Policy Toward Africa: The Role of Education”

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On April 5th 2013 AFSAAP President Dr. Tanya Lyons Presented a paper entitled “The Role of Education in Australia’s foreign policy toward Africa”  at the Flinders University School of International Studies Seminar Series in conjunction with the AFSAAP Seminar.

This paper was a draft version of a chapter that will appear  in  David Mickler and Tanya Lyons, eds., New Engagement: Contemporary Australian Foreign Policy Toward Africa, Melbourne University Press, 2013, forthcoming.

Lyons argued that the role of the education sector in Australia’s relationship with Africa is currently dominated by the Australia Awards in Africa (AAA) Scholarships program, which will educate up to 1000 African students per year from 2013 through to 2016 in targeted courses in Australian institutions. However, while there is a new engagement with Africa through such schemes, as Lyons pointed out, at the tertiary level, and at the primary and secondary levels, there is a need to educate Australians about Africa, which would in turn contribute to a more informed Australian foreign policy towards Africa.


April 7th, 2013

Opening AFSAAP-IPCS seminar by Pal Ahluwalia

DSC_0498The opening presentation of the the African Studies Seminar Series in Melbourne – a collaboration between AFSAAP and the Institute of Postcolonial Studies (IPCS) – took place on March 14th with great success. Our speaker for the night was Professor Pal Ahluwalia, a former president of AFSAAP and a long time associate of the IPCS, as well as one of Australia’s most renowned Africanist scholars.

Prof. Ahluwalia’s talk, Rethinking Reconciliation: Reflections on Genocide in Africa, focused on the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. The address included an in depth analysis of the historical and political causes of the genocide, but was presented  though an introspective lens, drawing from the professor’s own time in Rwanda and East Africa in and around 1994. Its theoretical focus concerned the practice of reconciliation and it’s challenges after the genocide particularly the intertwining role of the religious and secular worlds in the post reconciliation landscape. For the Professor, one of the most important aspects of a path to reconciliation is pedagogy, for it is the next generation who we must trusty to keep the promise
of ‘never again’. (more…)

April 7th, 2013

African Women’s Day Event in Sydney

Macquarie1More than 250 people attended an African-themed International Women’s Day event at Macquarie University on March 6th. Co-sponsored by AFSAAP, the event featured four women who presented “ideas worth sharing” about international development. They included MC Juliana Nkrumah, a women’s advocate who has been honoured by many organisations in Australia, Gemma Sisia, founder of Tanzania’s School of St Jude’s, Naomi Steer, founder of Australia for UNHCR, and Carol Angir, Senior Program Coordinator for ActionAid’s violence against women initiatives.

The event raised more than $5000 for Rotary Hunters Hill international service projects. A highlight of the event was a performance by Oz Afrique, a teenage drum and dance group made up of Cabramatta High School (Sydney) refugee students. The group’s name symbolises youth who belong in Australia but acknowledge their roots in the African continent.  Their families come from Sudan, Burundi, the Congo and Somalia but some were born in refugee camps in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Ethiopia. (more…)

March 20th, 2013