In Depth: Congolese Refugee To Earn PHD At UK This Weekend

May 3, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Of the thousands of students who will graduate from the University of Kentucky this weekend, some will say they achieved their goals by taking the road less traveled, and others like the guest you’re about to meet can talk about an educational journey most of us can’t even begin to fathom.

PHD in Political Science candidate Fraternel Amuri Misako is a visiting scholar from the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He came to UK as part of a special program for at-risk political refugees.

The Institue for International Education's Scholar Rescue Fund provides matching grants, through which an institution can host a scholar for one year with potential for renewal.  During that year, the scholar can not only publish his/her work in safety, but can also prepare for a future career beyond the home country.

Mr. Amuri was hosted by the Department of Anthropology due to his strong background in the social sciences, as well as the interdisciplinary nature of his research, which combines the perspectives of anthropology and political science to understand the nexus of religion and violence in messianic movements in Congo. His dissertation is entitled “Symbolism of the Legitimization of Violence among the Mai-Mai Militias of Maniema (Congo-Kinshasa): Continuities and Reinventions of Nationalist Messianism.”

His defense was tri-national, involving two faculty members from UK, two from France, and two from Congo, connected via videoconferencing.   This international cooperation made the doctoral degree attainable for a scholar whose academic freedom and physical safety were threatened in his home country, but who now has a promising future in the fields of anthropology and political science.

In addition to preparing his dissertation, Mr. Amuri – who was already trilingual, speaking French, Swahili and Lingala – also continued studying English and began teaching Political Science courses in January 2011. His funding was renewed for a second year, allowing him to complete the dissertation. UK was then able to arrange for the defense via petition to the Université de Kisangani in Congo. The Université de Kisangani, long isolated from global partners due to the violence and politics in the region, agreed to this defense as a symbol of their desire to become part of the international academic community.

Following his defense on October 20, which according to reports was attended in Congo by more than a hundred of his family members and supporters, Mr. (now Dr.) Amuri was awarded a degree “avec grande disctinction”. At the conclusion, as he was robed in cap and gown, his sister in Congo sang a victory song in celebration of his achievement.