Dr. Hizkias Assefa has been named to the Reconciliation Commission by the Ethiopian government. He is a co-founder of Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and a longtime Summer Peacebuilding Institute instructor. Assefa most recently taught a course in forgiveness and reconciliation at SPI 2019.
The commission was formed after ratification of authorizing legislation by the Ethiopian parliament in December 2018. “The social and political conflicts Ethiopia experienced for many years has caused layers of grudges and tension,” according to a Borkena news article. “And the commission is intended to bring about reconciliation based on the ideals of ‘truth and justice.’”
Assefa joins 41 members, including representatives of various constituiences, including church denominations, Islamic and Orthodox scholars, artists, athletes, youth, disabled citizens, academia, health professions and lawyers. The candidates were selected based on age, experience, gender, religion, educational background, region and representing three generations, among others, according to a press release issued by the government.
Assefa is a peacebuilding practitioner and trainer in many parts of the world. Operating out of Nairobi, Kenya, he has worked as a mediator and facilitator of reconciliation processes at political and community levels in a number of civil wars in Africa, Latin America, and Asia including Rwanda, Nigeria, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Israel/Palestine and Guatemala.
In Kenya, he worked with the African Union and United Nations at mediating between the government and the opposition parties involved in the 2007 election-sparked violence. This work led to the power-sharing government that governed the country between 2008 and 2013. He also mediated the conflict between the Government of South Sudan and the South Sudan Democratic Army/Movement that led to the peace agreement of May 9, 2014. [Read a Q and A about his peace mediations in South Sudan.]
Assefa has served as a consultant on conflict resolution and peacebuilding under situations of humanitarian disaster to the United Nations, the European Union, and several international and national Non-governmental organizations.
He holds an LLM from Northwestern University, MS in economics, MPA in public management and a PhD in public and international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh.