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John recounts his PhD research field trip to Africa, Ethiopia and Nigeria

Earlier this year, John Hogan, a PhD candidate in the Department of Politics and Public Administration, began a three and a half month field trip to South Africa, Ethiopia and Nigeria as part of his PhD research, which is focused on the origins of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) of the African Union (AU). John’s field trip was partially funded by the AHSS Research Board. Here he talks about his experience.

“The framework, which governs how the AU’s 55 member states collectively respond to security threats on the continent, is one of the pillars of the organisation. Despite this, the origins of how the APSA was created have been the subject of little scholarly work, with most existing research focusing on its effectiveness, rather than the causal factors behind its institutional design.

“Although the policies that provide legal basis for the framework have been ratified by each AU member state, its creation was primarily guided by the governments of South Africa and Nigeria, roughly between the years 2000 and 2004. During my time in both countries, I interviewed diplomats, military figures, academics, policy advisors and politicians – including former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo – regarding their role in the evolution of the APSA. My visits to South Africa and Nigeria also facilitated my gaining access to important foreign policy archives, through the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in the former and the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library in the latter.


“The archives of the AU Commission are located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and contain a large selection of documents related to discussions, focused on continental security, that took place between member states of the newly formed AU shortly after the turn of the millennium. Because the archives are still a work in progress, much of the documentation contained there is only available in hard copy, meaning researchers have to travel to Ethiopia in order to obtain copies of relevant material.

“While in Addis Ababa, I was also able to conduct interviews with officials from the organisation, some of whom played a central role in inter-state discussions regarding the creation of the APSA. Other interviewees were more recent arrivals at the AU but are centrally involved today in utilising the APSA to try and achieve peace and stability on the African continent. Both groups of officials provided testimony which will make up a highly important component of my PhD dissertation.”

Read more about John’s research trip on his blog:

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