By Elias Mhegera – Youngsters in the African continent have condemned excessive use of force against them whenever they champion movements for their rights. The call could be identified as the most underlined statement during the two days preparatory workshop at the Coral Beach Hotel in Dar es Salaam Tanzania.
In the closing days of Thursday and Friday last week 33 youngsters from all over the African continent met to deliberate their fates in what they termed as dominant administrations which to a large extent have sidelined them.
The International Conference was facilitated by the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, and initiative which began in 2014. The flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) empowers young people through various programs.
These include academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. Through this program Fellows hone their skills through participating in a six-week academic and leadership Institute at a U.S. university or college. Following the Fellows’ return home from the United States, USAID sponsors one year of follow-on programming.
Meeting in Dar es Salaam representatives of the Regional Advisory Boards (RABs) and other participants promised to ensure that Africa becomes a learning avenue of peace and security, good governance and partnership.
Board members are Fellows who have volunteered their time and expertise to give back to the larger community and to ensure that their inputs are included in activity design. The Dar conference was facilitated by the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) and Volunteer Services Organization (VSO).
This conference is a preparation for the May and June summits which will consequently mark an end of these development ambassadors paving for another group in a system which locates six months training resources on yearly basis.
But a series of jokes erupted when a lady representative invited her colleagues to what she termed as a peaceful country of Burundi. “Did I hear something like peaceful country of Burundi? Asked Collins Plimo Nakedi executive director of Hifadhi and Kenyan by nationality rather jokingly…
This joking then marked almost the entire two days conference where participants became ambassadors of their own countries accusing each other of human rights violations in neighboring country and defending them whenever the joke appeared to be unbearable.
The accusations and counter accusations surfaced when participants were assigned to three zones of representation namely, East and Horn of Africa, West and Central Africa as well as Southern Africa zone.
The common practice of using violence and teargas against youngsters has become a uniform trend across the African continent. They condemned a wave of what they termed as ‘imperial presidents’. Without mincing words the two notorious that came quickly in the light were Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame.
But this did not mean to spare Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe whom was discussed as a crosscutting issue in almost all groups. The recent university graduates stem from various fields from journalists, lawyers, political scientists to medical doctors.
They condemned happenings in Burundi under an adamant strong man Pierre Nkurunziza, where incessant killings have now become almost a common practice. They also condemned militarisation of politics and commercialisation of crimes in order to further rather short-term political interests.
“We have been hearing about empowering the youths, it is the right moment now to see the youths in power because we have been empowered for quite some time and we have the requisite energy that can push forward our continent,” urged one participant in the hall.
In this regard the youths who are still energetic and highly ambitious are seen as virulent and treated almost like criminals. “During elections we are manhandled grossly mistreated and arbitrarily arrested in order to preserve peace and order” lamented one representative.
But while all these discussions were going one two representatives from Tanzania were almost jovial expecting that nothing negative will be mentioned on unethical behaviours of political governance.
But immediately the debate picked the ongoing power tussle in Zanzibar where many of the participants from the East Africa Zone had a particular interest, but they presumed that there are attempts to deny justice to the winners of the election.
“The happenings in Zanzibar are a menace and actually they tarnish the good image of Tanzania before the international community, “claimed one Fellow participant in the conference hall.
This stance by the young leaders in a way re-iterates what was stated in the recent past by the immediate former Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Bernard Membe who said the Zanzibar crisis was not being received well by the international community but he met harsh responses immediately from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) youth wing.
One representative from Tanzania who happened to be amongst internal observers revisited the General Election scenario when he was among the 36 arrested observers by the Police Force from the Tanzania Civil Society Consortium on Election Observation (TACCEO).
“We know that it is some leaders who instigate religious bigotry, and escalation of violence so as to remain in power in the pretext of preserving peace in their countries, they are not prepared to relinquish power simply because they are beneficiaries of many contracts that are unfriendly to their own subjects,” commented one participant.
Facilitator Sow Pape, West and Central Regional Manager urged youngsters to take advantage of the high demand in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT), given the fact many governments are venturing for e-governance, he assured participants of right away employment and self employment for them
Victorine Sarr from Senegal introduced the main issues that her team in Ghana and her country had done. Her committee members were from Ghana, Liberia, Chad and Cape Verde.
The committee had various engagements including visitations and discussing the fellowship challenges. There was a diversity of professionals, from IT experts, journalists, and even guest speaker experts.
Presenter Collins Plimo Nakedi from Kenya said challenges were not many as they engaged through skypes, they visited constituencies. They discussed matters to do with youths and sustainable development on security, and how to make the fellowship to function well in the rural areas.
He cherished the use of a bottom –up approach by involving discussions and views form the local people are respected. Formation of peace committee to discuss security challenges whereby Exchange and Development committees (END) were formed where there were 10 members.
The youngsters who have benefited through the leadership initiative are determined to transform their continent but they believe that their engagement in leadership of their country will be the first option if the practice was to succeed.
They criticized the trend where disability is counted on physical impairment by noting that even by denying those chances in leadership and employment opportunities is another form of a disability that is why some of them have resorted to drug addiction and other petty crimes out of frustrations.
But also they critiqued a trend of gender parity being dominated by urban based movements including Non Government Organizations NGOs where only a few of the educated women are beneficiaries through job creation and donor funds, likewise.
The well equipped youngsters in terms of knowledge having different backgrounds of formal education they claim that they are now ready to run daily affairs of their governments through engagement rather than stimulating intimidation and fear.
Through the YALI youngsters have been trained in many aspects from speech making, lobbying, advocating to conflict resolution. Other themes along the line are entrepreneurship, human rights and socialisation in relation and as an opposition to radicalisation.
Moreover other important themes are; how to curb cybercrime and preventive measures against the effects of climate change. The training has as well gone hand in hand with excavating talents like music, fashion show, acting and the like.
The programme has as well involved invitations of inspirational speakers, people who have made it in various fields from the academia, distinguished writers, and poets to retired presidents.
The programme has as well inculcated the sense of ethical leadership and voluntarism as was advanced by the fore fathers of the continent like Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah and others.
The youngsters have as well been trained how to use the media space being a fundamental agent of change