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Stephanie Anne-Gaelle Vieille

PoliSci grad addresses international congress

June 14, 2007

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By Carol Thorbes

Seasoned academics, policy makers and professionals were so impressed with Stéphanie Anne-Gaëlle Vieille’s master’s thesis in political science at SFU they invited her to present it to the world.

Vieille, who graduated this month, was among seven scholars enrolled in graduate programs worldwide who presented their research at the 2007 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences June 2 in Saskatoon, Sask.

The students had won a worldwide competition to present their research at the congress. Sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency and the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (CFHSS), the competition seeks to expand academic dialogue at the CFHSS’s annual congress by including newly minted scholars.

Vieille flew to Saskatoon to present her research only days before her walk across SFU’s convocation mall to receive her MA on June 6.

For her thesis, Vieille examined how two war-ravaged regions of Africa — Rwanda and Northern Uganda — use tribal grassroots reconciliation processes to regain law and order and heal their communities. While hundreds of thousands of people died in the genocide that swept Rwanda in 1994, a more than 20-year-old civil war still rages in Northern Uganda.

"Their rehabilitation processes require the attendance of past offenders, victims and the wider community," explains Vieille. "They all sit down together in the fields or under a tent. The emphasis is not put on confrontation but acknowledgment."

Vieille says such processes are more likely to succeed than conventional punishment because they target the social and psychological rehabilitation of victims as well as the re-introduction of past offenders. She says Western society could learn from these healing processes because they are based on the African philosophy that community harmony is more important than individual satisfaction.

Notes Vieille, "This is not so much the case in our very individualistic and competitive Western societies."

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