Featured Opinion

Youth engagement for peace is more than needed

The world through the United Nation’s agenda 2030 targeted to realize decent work and economic growth (agenda 5), no poverty (agenda 1) and peace and justice strong institutions (agenda 16).

How this is being delivered across board leave a lot to be answered as regards meaningful youth engagement.

The Greatlakes region is a hub of violence, refugee crisis and cross board conflicts. Governance has become the cornerstone for most violence and lack of peace. In all this, the young people have become key players of either civil strife, political unrest or intolerance.

The Greatlakes region hosts over 127 million people who can be described as a fragile and unsustainable in terms of peace. The region is ravaged by un clear political transitions, tribal, political party and political leader’s dominance. Political intolerance is on the rise with the Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC and South Sudan becoming a mother of most refugees.

The position of young people in shaping the peace agenda for this region is not yet articulated. The youth under the East Africa Youth Network on Dialogue and Peace converged in Kigali for a multi stakeholder conference on peace for the Greatlakes region.

This was a symposium of over 200 actors including 80 peace building organisations. I represented RDP Uganda in this space with a view of contributing to the new peaceful agenda for the region.

The great lakes region is now at crossroads. Rwanda is not at peace with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Rwanda – Uganda Border is still in crisis. On the 20th March 2023, Kenya launched a national demonstration that have spurred unrest and violence.

In all this, young people are at the centre of either suffering or actors in shaping violence. Youth are the faces of the past, the present and the future.

How we shape and engage young people is critical. There is more need to engage the youth in peace processes. The young people must not be treated as war actors but peace agents. They must not just be made to talk peace but facilitate dialogue between actors. In the Kigali conference, the conference ended with a call for the East African Community to integrate a youth peace agenda in all its community processes.

For example, the youth parliament must have input into the east African community Legislative Assembly decision making processes.

It is clear that both the ruling governments and opposition have their youth wings as platforms and groups of engagement and confrontation not as dialogue, negotiation and peaceful talk platforms.

The young people must be engaged from school and childhood. The young people are recruited into violence because of their courage, resilience and energy. The Greatlakes region must design more peace and dialogue interventions targeting youth.

These initiatives will create meaningful engagement with the youth and train them to question everything but also to believe and act on the answers with peace and positivity.

The current young people believe everything until they question everything wanting to get the answers that favor their intentions.

If young people are not meaningfully engaged, they risk being used and will also be users when they get the opportunity to serve.

To achieve the peace agenda, every actor must appreciate the need to prepare youth as agents of peace and believers of peaceful and dialogue processes.

However, to deliver this peaceful reality, youth across this region will consume peace.

They can meaningfully engage in peaceful engagements if the region invests in peaceful processes.

If the region delivers credible, fair and transparent elections, young people will be very difficult to engage in any anti-peace crusade. 

Time has come for all peace-loving actors to establish the nexus between peace, youth and governance. Political governance will guarantee a peaceful youth population.

Therefore, governments especially of the Greatlakes region have to guarantee peaceful political transition, constitutionalism, respect for political pluralism and above all, sustainable livelihood options for the young people.

The region is in dare need for hand ups. Governments and many anti-poverty stakeholders have over delivered handouts and they have not transformed the young people. Its time to acknowledge and recognize that the youth walk very fast but the aged know the road. The peace mentors are needed more than before.

The young people must now appreciate the need for peace for their generation. Peaceful energies will be needed and created only if the youth create and sustain peace platforms.

Young people should underscore the importance of peace for themselves before it is delivered to the others. Its not time to demand for peace monuments not genocide or violence historic places.

We can build more dialogue centres and routine places and spaces of dialogue if we are to deliver peace.

Thank you

The writer is the Executive Director for Recreation for Development and Peace Uganda (RDP Uganda) a youth empowerment national NGO in Uganda.


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