15 July 2019, Nairobi: The Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa is urging African countries to involve young people as crucial allies in peacebuilding by engaging them as partners in tackling violent extremism. She is also encouraging consideration of the youth in the design and implementation of relevant programs and policies on addressing radicalism.
Speaking on the role of young people in ‘silencing the guns’ in Africa by 2020, on the sidelines of the just concluded Africa Regional High-Level Conference on Counter/Prevention of Violent Extremism held in Nairobi, Ms. Eziakonwa noted that, for Africa to inclusively address drivers of violence and radicalisation, young people should be at the table to help inform policies and solutions.
“Many countering violent extremism initiatives portray youth as the perpetrators of violent extremism or as possible victims of recruitment into violent groups. This narrative fails to capture the fact that the youth are part of the solution. They represent promise and potential, not just perils and problems”, she said.
The UN is supporting the flagship initiative by African Union Heads of State and Government’s pledge to ‘silence the guns’, and not to bequeath the burden of conflict to the next generation of Africans and end all wars by 2020.
“Silencing the guns is not only about physical weapons, it is also about addressing the mental state of affected persons, including incitement through social media as well as other forms of violence on communities and people,” said Ms. Bintou Keita, the Assistant Secretary-General for Africa of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations of the United Nations (DPPA-DPO).
The participating youth, drawn from various African countries noted that young people are vulnerable to political manipulation and radicalisation due to poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunities to tap into their talents. They also pointed out that the security responses by governments at times exacerbate tensions and the feeling of exclusion, marginalisation and disfranchisement; pushing some of the young people towards violent ideologies.
“Youth from informal settlements always live in fear of the police and security forces, such that even when they are the victims, in many instances, they are implicated as perpetrators of violence. We need to be involved in finding solutions and raising awareness on the positive role that we can play,” said Martin Sela, a youth from Kenya.
The Kenya Government representative at the conference, Mr. Mukhtar Ogle of the Executive Office of the Presidency, said the government is investing in integrated multi-sectoral approach towards youth empowerment, by ensuring that National Action Plans and other national policy frameworks are youth inclusive and youth focused.
“The future of Africa is at risk unless we address the needs of young people, including managing their expectations and building their leadership capacities to prepare them for the future,” he said.
For more information contact:
Ms. Ngele Ali, Head of Communications, UNDP Kenya,
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Ms. Praise Nutakor, Communications Specialist, UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | +1 732 4057940