The remarkable role of our young people in social cohesion cannot go unrecognized. They have affirmed their consistent influence as agents of mending our social fabrics.
The youth are bringing a new appreciation of diversity across the globe. Many countries have resorted to tapping their potential in ironing historical injustices and initiating a new breed of leadership.
Rwanda has not been an exception. As I have previously written in this column, young people occupy an integral part of the Rwandan community. Through our great strides from the dark past, the youth have been part and parcel of this long journey, standing side by side with leaders and our partners.
Our country boasts of her youth running various government institutions and private entities. They are decision makers and not just recipient of information. This cocktail of the youthful energy and the most experienced work force gives us a profound ownership of our endeavours.
Meanwhile, as the week of national mourning for the Genocide against the Tutsi comes to an end, the deliberations around the year’s commemoration theme ‘fighting genocide ideology’ has so far been widely discussed throughout the country.
A number of concepts that were useful for understanding why people did or did not help others in need were also useful for understanding the extreme destructiveness of the perpetrators of the genocide against the Tutsi.
We have come to painfully know that harming and killing members of a group become possible when a feeling of responsibility for their welfare has been lost as a result of profound devaluation by a society or an ideology adopted by the society.
Our reconciliation and peace are processes that we must safeguard at all cost. Every Rwandan adult is a party to making this country what it is today.
Our young people, irrespective of their age, must be considered as beneficiaries and as agents of social cohesion. They should not be passive recipients of these great plans we have for this great nation.
They hold more in terms of carrying forward the social cohesion we would wish to have in years to come, when we shall have no strength left to act.
Social cohesion is what holds societies together. It cannot be achieved through legislation or government regulations, but by building social networks that enables one to appreciate and intrinsically demonstrate it.
Strengthening social networks and relationships translates to trust, which makes people work together to achieve common goals. To achieve this, the role of young people as central actors in social dynamics must be increasingly emphasized, from the tender age to adulthood.
We can begin this by emphasizing that the social institutions inhabited by these young people are fundamental to successful social cohesion efforts. The most important of these institutions is, of course, the school.
As schools are at least partially charged with the task of communicating and transferring societal norms and expectations, they are naturally important breeding grounds for national cohesion.
Through their schooling experience, the youth can emerge prepared to fight vices in our society. Universities and other higher learning institutions are also better placed to instill our countries visions and core values.
Fighting genocide ideology for instance, should not just end at the community gatherings but must be incorporated in learning programs and other experiences.
Outside the school setting, the mainstream Media becomes a crucial partner. A larger proportion of their audience comprises young people and influence their emotional health, attitudes and behaviours to a large extent.
Their programs, shows and messages need to carry the flame of social cohesion and portray a society that needs a common understanding for its prosperity. The media’s power is immense posing as a great platform to educate the youth.
Young people being part of the ramping technology are also of great value to this process.
Television, movies, music, videos and video games, and the Internet – has a profound influence on their views of themselves and the world around them. These are things that today form part of their daily lives and we must see ways of making them bring the desired influence.
For instance, internet blogs and websites can be used to nurture our young people as active and productive citizens.
Encouraging them to use social media as a platform for social inclusion and initiate positive community actions is paramount.
Local leaders can communicate with the youth effectively on communal matters through social media and seek their responses.
The authorities can contract the youth to run various Facebook pages, twitter handles, Instagram and so forth, where they engage them in discussing our common values as a nation.
Finally, as we urge the inclusion of the young generation in the fight against genocide, we must also desist from the temptation of romanticizing evil by calling the genocide against the Tutsi “incomprehensible”.
This view could discourage the realistic understanding that is necessary if we are to work effectively for a world without genocides and mass killings and torture.
Oscar Kimanuka is a communications specialist and a part-time lecturer at both the Senior Command and Staff College and the Consultative Forum for Political Parties.Follow https://twitter.com/@kimanuka