Tribute to Eric Bell

20 June 2016 | ResolutionPossible

Eric Bell ; Manchester; researcher

We are deeply saddened and shocked to learn that one of our long term researchers, Eric Bell, has passed away.

We got to know Eric back in 2014 when he joined our team as a researcher. At the time, Eric was studying for a Masters in International Development: Poverty, Conflict and Reconstruction at the University of Manchester’s Institute for Development Policy and Management. He was writing his Master’s dissertation on the links between aid, governance and conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which he felt greatly complemented his work for Resolution:Possible. Nearly all of his postgraduate research has been focused on conflict and reconstruction in the central and eastern African region.

Eric had been actively writing and researching for Resolution:Possible ever since. He had an incredible wealth of knowledge about the issues in the African Great Lakes Region and beyond, keeping us up to speed with developments especially in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. You can find the blogs he wrote here. He continued behind the scenes for us, taking on the mammoth task of creating an overview of non-governmental armed groups in the Great Lakes region. We had many conversations about the complexity of the situation. We had a shared frustration with the over-simplification of the situation in the media, which we felt was detrimental to conflict resolution. Eric was keen to create a resource allowing people to understand the intrinsically linked web of connections between the armed groups, their countries’ histories, economics and politics. It was a huge project to which he dedicated so much time and passion, and will now not be able to complete.

Eric had the ability to use his keen observation skills to warn of problematic developments. Most notably, he very astutely observed back in 2014 how an American law, put into place with the intention of stopping the mining of certain metals from funding conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was short sighted and needed to be re-assessed: “Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act is merely a Band-Aid on a much bigger issue and it simplifies the complex nature of conflict in the DRC”. This sentiment is now widely shared.

More recently, Eric returned to his home town of Columbia, South Carolina. In October 2015 a storm caused historic flash flooding in his city. He observed that “the city has been in a wreck for the better part of two weeks and things still are not back to normal. I’ve been volunteering in low-income areas helping with demolition and donations. It’s really insane.” It was clear to us that Eric was not only a deeply committed researcher, he was also keen to be on the more practical side of helping and assisting people.

Last year we were approached by a journalist (responsible for making a documentary on Liberia and Firestone Natural Rubber Company) asking if he could be put in touch with Eric to ask about Folgers Coffee in the context of Burundi. Eric said he was “pretty floored by this”, saying he was “already familiar with [this journalist’s] documentary on Liberia and Firestone so I’m thrilled to help in any capacity I can”. We were extremely excited for him that he was getting this well-deserved recognition. Even now when you type ‘Folgers’ and ‘Burundi’ into a search engine, Eric’s blog is the first article to pop up.

Despite the demands of prestigious journalists, emergency aid and the search for his dream job, Eric was determined to continue dedicating some of his time to the work of Resolution:Possible, for which we will always be grateful beyond words. In an email he once said of Resolution:Possible – “I love the mission, the goals, subject matter, and the people”. We felt hugely supported by his belief in what we are trying to do.

For those of us who had the privilege of working with him, Eric was not only a knowledgeable and dedicated researcher, he was also a lot of fun to talk to and had an infectious laugh (even via Skype!). We will miss his wit, his knowledge, his keen observations. To lose someone so young with so much potential is inconceivable and something we will most likely never really be able to fully comprehend.

Eric passed away Wednesday 15 June 2016 aged 36. You can leave a message of condolence and support for his family here.

Eric Bell with dog

 

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