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AU, FG seeks new narrative for youths as ‘agents of violence, insurgency’

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Godsgift Onyedinefu

The Federal Government of Nigeria has said that efforts towards sustainable peace and security in Nigeria, West African Region and African continent will remain a mirage if the youthful population are still perceived  as prepators of violence, insurgency and other security issues.

The Minister for Youths and sports Development, Solomon Dalung, stated this in Abuja on Wednesday at a continental study on ‘The Roles and Contributions of Youth to Peace and Security in Africa: West African Regional Consultation’ organized by the African Union (AU) and supported by the European Union and German Development Agency (GIZ).

The study had in attendance youth representatives from each of the ECOWAS member states.

The minister who was represented by the permanent Secretary, Olusade Adesola, said the need to recognize and appreciate the potentials of youths to positively contribute to sustainable security and as agents of  peace is apt especially at a time when the country is contending with diverse situations that challenge peace and security.

He also noted that the youth is the dominant demography in most conflict situations on the continent particularly in Nigeria with a youth population estimated at about 60 per cent of the country’s population of over 180million. 

Dalung stressed that ” until youth are recognized as key actors in peace making and security process, the global efforts the and desire for enduring and sustainable globalpeace might remain a mirage.” 

He said, “Often, young people within the age brackets of 18-35 years are the main perpetuators of criminal and political violence, communal clashes and many other security issues. This development accounted for the skewed contemporary thinking on youth largely in the negative. 

“Youths must be concertualized and fully involved as agents of positive change for peace in terms of, they must be engaged and involved in the broader social change processes to transform violence into peace through a more participatory and inclusive situations.”

He added, “Examples abound across the globe on commendable contributions of young people towards peace and security such as the strengthening of community cohesion and reconciliation in South Sudan, Civic Awareness for peaceful social relations and development programmes in Nepal, trust-building across different ethno-religious groups in Sri Lanka, and community entrepreneurship and livelihoods programmes in Burundi and many more driven by the youth.”

In the same vein, the minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Geoffrey Onyema, said African youths have seen as perpetrators of the increasing volatile security challenges in the western Sahara, the Sahel and Nigeria, because they are ill informed and uneducated. He said this makes them easily brainwashed and recruited to destabilize societies.

The minister who was represented by the the Head of AU Division, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Chimezie Okeoma Ogu, said, “African youths demographic size have created vulnurable group if vast Army of ill informed and uneducated recruited as insurgents, involved in violent extremism, transnational crime, human trafficking, drug abuse, money laundering, cyber crime and religious fanatism. 

“We know what is happening in the Sahel region, Mali,  Nigeria, somalia most of the people who constitutes insurgency of the non state actors are uneducated youths,  because they don’t know their left and right that is why they re easily recruited and brainwashed.”

Onyema, while noting that youths have strong potentials as a catalyst to make positive contribution to national discourse, urged African heads of states to create more political space for the participation of youths in governance and invest more resources to harness their best potential.

Earlier, the representative of the AU Commission, Rhuks Ako assured that the AUC will work with the ministry of youth and sports Development to ensure that  the youths in Nigeria are taking into recognition in the AUs programme.

He also opined that the the youths have also been performed negatively because the “literature out there demonised them.”

To this end, he explained that one of the major imperatives of the study is that the AUC through the Youth 4 Peace (Y4P) programme will ensure  that the youths contribution is not be forgotten or go unrecognised without due accords to the positive contribution that they play in National, regional and continental peace and security efforts. 

He said the study will form the baseline for institutional memory that will help inform policies and action plan for the future.

Also speaking, the ECOWAS Cluster Coordinator, GIZ, Mr. Ludwig Kirchner, said the Support to the ECOWAS Peace and Security Architecture and Operations (EPSAO) Programme was launched in February 2019 for implementation over a 4-year period (2019 — 2022) with three  key strategic objectives in the areas of: Peace Support Operations; Conflict Prevention; and Security Sector Reform and Governance (SSRG) with a specific focus on The Gambia. 

Kirchner said the main objective of the action is to prevent and manage conflicts and security threats in West Africa. 

According to him, the engagement youth  In peace and security is important as recognised by the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2250 & 2419 at the global level, the African Union Youth Charter (2006) at the continental level, and the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) 2008 at the regional level — in this case ECOWAS. 

On this basis, he said, our support to the Youth for Peace Africa Program is in alignment with strategic objective two of the EPSAO Programme in the area of conflict prevention and also considered as a cross-cutting issue under the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) 2008. 

He said: “Although different stakeholders instigate and sustain violence, the youth are often as the main perpetrators when used by political actors, militia groups or violent extremists to express societal dissatisfaction. Little narratives exist to showcase the positive impact and contribution of youth to the desired peace and stability in the region and beyond. 

“For example, the YIAGA Africa Initiative — a youth initiative here in Nigeria lobbied and aadbvoouctatyeodurfoinr itthiaetiNveost Too Young To Run Bill which was signed into law by the Nigerian President in 2018 to encourage active youth participation in Nigerian politics. We look forward to learning in your various countries. The convening of this forum is particularly important in terms  Africant o w a rodf providing a collaborative, open and inclusive space for young peacebuilders to contribute d 6 o f th e the promotion of a prosperous and peaceful Africa in line with aspirations 4 an Union Agenda 2063.”

“This initiative presents a good opportunity for collaboration between the African Union, its Regional Economic Communities – in this case the Economic Community of West African States and international partners.”

Kirchi also reiterated thr commitment and continued support of GIZ  to the African Union and the ECOWAS Commission in the fulfilment of the African Peace and Security Architecture mandate.

The Y4P event was also graced one of the best Nigeria’s music icons Timi Dakolo who conveyed a message of peace and futility 9f violence through a soul-searching song.

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