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The 2009 Umoja conference will be held at Macalester College from April 24-26. This conference is an annual program created by a network of African student organizations in the Midwest. The word UMOJA is a Swahili word that means “Unity”. The purpose of the UMOJA conference is to discuss pertinent issues concerning the African continent and African students particularly in the Diaspora.

The theme of this year’s event is “African Youth and Leadership

In addition to the student discussion and keynote events, there will be African dance competition on the theme “dreams”.


  • Friday April 24th
  • Dance Party 10pm-2am (Kagin Ballroom)
  • Saturday April 25th
  • Panel Discussion: Kefa M. Otiso  & Kawuma Busuulwa 10:30 am-12:00 (Weyerhaeuser Boardroom)
  • Lunch 12-1pm   Café Mac
  • Main Talk and project displays 1:30-3:00pm— Kimmie Weeks JBD
  • Dinner 7-8pm    Orlin Rice Plaza
  • Dance competition 9:30am-12am    MJO stage –Campus Center
  • Participating Schools in Cultural show and dance competition
    St. Olaf

About the Speakers:

Key Note Speaker: Kimmie Weeks

28 year old Kimmie Weeks is no stranger to poverty and suffering. Born in Liberia 1981, Kimmie came face to face with civil war, human suffering, and death as a 9 year old boy. Before the war ended in 1996, 14 year old Kimmie began working to alleviate poverty and human suffering in Africa and around the world and has been doing that since.
Over the years, Kimmie has formed partnerships and led organizations that have provided education to thousands of students in West Africa, lobbied the disarmament of over 20,000 child soldiers, and provided health care and recreation supplies to children.

In 1998, Kimmie Weeks investigated and released a groundbreaking report on the Liberian government’s involvement in the training children as soldiers. As a result, former Liberian President Charles Taylor made several attempts to assassinate him until he fled Liberia and was granted political asylum in the United States.

Once he came to the United States, Kimmie Weeks established an International organization called Youth Action International to support the needs of families living in post war countries. In 2008, Youth Action International’s programs benefited close to 150,000 people in six post war African countries.

Kimmie Weeks is the recipient of the 2007 Golden Brick Award which honors young people under 25 years old who are working to change the world. Also in 2007, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf presented Kimmie with Liberia’s highest honor by decorating him Knight Grand Commander in the Humane Order of African Redemption. Kimmie is the youngest recipient of this honor. He is also featured in the new book Peace in Our Lifetime as an international peacemaker, along with Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kimmie Weeks received his bachelors from Amherst College and his Masters from the University of Pennsylvania. He currently serves as Executive Director of Youth Action International. He also serves on the Board of Directors of DoSomething, and as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council. The Global Agenda Council convenes 15 to 30 of the most innovative and relevant minds in fields of critical importance to the world as a whole.

Dr. Kefa M. Otiso
‘Kenyan Youth: Past, Present, & Future Prospects’

The role and place of Kenyan youth has changed rapidly in the last century in response to domestic and external pressures such as changing livelihoods, colonialism and globalization. These changes have been a mixed blessing for Kenyan youth as they have brought about unprecedented challenges and opportunities that call for new paradigms to enable youth to thrive now and in the future. This presentation starts with a historical overview of the changing role and place of Kenyan youth before proceeding to chart pathways to a brighter future. Given the many similarities between African countries, it is not surprising that the struggles and triumphs of Kenyan youth are in many ways a study of past, present and future prospects of African youth.

About Dr. Otiso:

Dr. Otiso is an associate professor of urban and economic geography and GIS at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, USA. He has a Bachelor of Education degree from Kenyatta University (Kenya), a Master of Arts degree in Geography/GIS from Ohio University (Athens), and PhD in Urban and Economic Geography from the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities). His current research interests are focused on (1) international migration especially African immigration to the US and other western countries, (2) US economic globalization and restructuring, (3) African urbanization and regional economic development, (4) the role of nonprofit organizations in development, and (5) the African local government system. Some of his research has been funded by the Rockefeller and the MacArthur Foundations and he has conducted fieldwork in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

He is the author of a 2006 book on the Culture and Customs of Uganda (Greenwood Press) and is currently working on a similar volume on Tanzania. He has published numerous book chapters and refereed articles in international journals such as Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, Cities, Geojournal, and Ohio Journal of Science. He has also written op-ed pieces and commentaries in newspapers such as the Kenya Times, Daily Nation and the East African Standard and has also received coverage from other news outlets including The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio), Mshale (Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota), The Africa Report (Paris, France), and 88.1 FM (Bowling Green, Ohio).

Dr. Otiso has made numerous academic presentations at various national and international scholarly conferences including those hosted by the Association of American Geographers, the African Studies Association, the Kenya Scholars and Studies Association, and the International Research Forum for Development. He has also delivered keynote addresses for various community groups including the Minnesota-Kenya International Development Association (MKIDA), Gusii Education and Advancement Resources (GEAR), Kenya Community Abroad (KCA), and the African Community Association (ACA). He is the Associate Editor of the African Geographical Review and the founding president of the Kenya Scholars and Studies Association. For his contributions to Kenya’s development, the Republic of Kenya awarded him one of its highest civilian honors, the Moran of the Order of the Golden Heart, in December 2008.

Kawuma Busuulwa

The Diaspora, What is our role?

Kawuma will be exploring the  role of African Youth  and how they can  contribute towards developement and assuming leadership roles to bridge the gap between the Diáspora and Africa.  The presentation will focus on the forces African Youth encounter such as brain-drain, HIV/AIDS and political conflict.

Kawuma Busuulwa, a native of Uganda, is a recent graduate of Macalester College. He is very passionate about Africa. He was the co-chair of AFRIKA!, when he was at Macalester enabling him to be active about issues pertaining Africa while at Macalester and he is still outspoken about current issues facing Africa and the role young people especially young Africans of the Diaspora in developing Africa. He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Pharmacy degree at the University of Minnesota.

This event is open to the public–




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