The president of the Republic in a recent outing on the 10th of September convened a national dialogue to restore peace in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon by “examining ways and means of responding to the high aspirations” of the people. We at SODEI support the initiative and are willing to accompany the efforts towards a return to normalcy. At SODEI we work to inspire young people through education while advocating for their involvement in moving their communities and the nation forward. In this line, we are advocating for their participation in the upcoming peace talks.
Globally, young people continue to be relegated to a position of powerlessness and their potentials limited as a result of them being isolated and their voices not heard. Whereas, young people’s participation nowadays is globally considered a goal to strive for and serves as an indicator of sustainable development policies and reflects the importance of representation in decision making which especially concerns them. For young people’s participation to be considered effective, they have to be seen as full members of the society capable of being consulted in matters concerning them (Burr and Montgomery, 2003).
The next generation of leaders will emerge from among the current cohort of young people, so their engagement in the peace process, shapes their skills in problem solving and will have long-term impacts. Below are 10 points why and how young people can engage in the dialogue process.
- Youths are social actors with agency
Many conflicts in Africa today result from the marginalisation of youth. They are considered immature, incompetent and unable to be involved in important decisions concerning them. However, modern sociology considers young people as social actors with agency, capable of contributing to the progress of their communities.
- Youths play an important role in the crisis
Youths have been the major players in the conflict as victims or perpetrators, hence can also feature in the production of peace.
- Youths are major stakeholders in grassroots communities
As seen above, young people as social actors have major stakes in society. Their role in the crisis so far as victims and active participants is a testament to this fact. Young people’s everyday lives are invariably intertwined with the health of the communities they live in. As future leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators, their involvement in the dialogue table matters because they are distinctively affected by the decisions to be made at the dialogue table.
Since the announcement of the all-inclusive dialogue by the Head of State, many pundits have raised the need to include young people in the dialogue. These reminders are reflective of the need to embrace and encourage youth representation, especially those from the grassroots disproportionately affected by the crisis. A post on Facebook read:
“That dialogue is intended to end a youth crisis. If youths are relegated to the background of the dialogue table, peace won’t come.”
The inclusion of young people during all phases of the dialogue process would likely increase the sustainability of the outcomes.
Involving youths in the dialogue will give them a sense of recognition and worth. As victims it will serve to assuage the pain and trauma and rekindle their hope and aspirations as partakers in nation building. For those who have taken up arms and are actively involved in the crisis, it will be an opportunity to bring their concerns to the table and move to a peaceful phase of conflict resolution. It is worth noting that a number of young people previously involved in the hostilities have dropped their arms and joined the DDR centres. Some amongst them have embarked on a peace campaign and called for reformation. Many more could do same if they feel valued and given a second chance.
- A Youth Perspective
Listening to the youths’ perspective will not only take their voices into consideration but properly represent their interests in the outcome of the dialogue.
- A Youth Forum
A youth forum would bring together young people from different works of life to deliberate on the issues affecting them as youth and table recommendations to the dialogue commission. Such an initiative could act as the start of a representative platform for young people and continue post conflict. Youth groups from the 10 regions would discuss and summarize the main issues affecting them and table at the national youth forum.
- Youth Organisations
A network of local Civil Society Organisations working for young people would carry out consultations with young people to table to the dialogue commission.
- Youths Representatives
Youth representatives or delegates would be selected both from the network of youth organisation sand from the youth forum to table proposals and represent youths in the discussions.