Empowering youth through ways such as education is a sure way to reduce chances of their involvement in acts of violence and atrocities.
This was said by Rwandan youth to the delegation of leaders from Central African Republic and South Sudan, who were in the country for a two-day Global Peacebuilders Conference.
The conference, organised by Faith-based organisations, Rwanda Youth Action Network, Rwanda Civil Society Platform and Aegis Trust, is the first of a three-phase intervention by the civil society in the ongoing conflicts in the two countries.
The phases to follow include raising awareness of the ongoing atrocities on international platforms to gather up support for intervention and holding peace meeting in the two countries.
During a panel discussion on youth engagement in peace building, Jean Nepo Sibomana, the executive director of Rwanda Youth Action Network, said as had been the case in Rwanda during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, illiterate and idle youth were easier to influence to cause them to participate in atrocities.
“When the Seleka rebels mobilised, it is estimated that they were not more than 4,500, but within a few months, the number grew to more than 20,000 because most of the young people were idle,” Sibomana said.
“Any government that wants to maintain stability should also focus on ensuring that the majority of the people are empowered to provide for themselves.”
Alphonse Nkuranga, the executive secretary of the National Youth Council, advised that the empowerment should be aligned to national development goals and relevant to resources available.
“The empowerment or education should be aligned with the priorities and opportunities in a country or a region or else they it will still be irrelevant,” he said.
Nkuranga said it was cardinal upon the youth to champion peace building instead of leaving it to the government.
Aegis Trust National Youth coordinator Marc Gwamaka said empowering youth would not only keep them out of trouble, but it would transform them to problem solvers and job creators.
“Education and empowering them with the right skills will see the youth move from dependants who are easy to influence to problem solvers and job creators in a country. They will be the solutions from within that you are seeking,” Gwamaka said.
In his opening remarks at the conference on Thursday, Local Government minister Francis Kaboneka called on the youth in the two restive countries to be active peace ambassadors and refuse to be influenced by the older generations who may want to engage them in committing atrocities.
According to UNHCR’s statistics over 400,000 people are estimated to be internally displaced in the Central African Republic, where fighting intensified last year between Seleka Muslim fighters against Christian militiamen.
A senior United Nations official has told the Security Council that South Sudan is on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe, and called for international pressure on the country’s warring parties to end the fighting.
Rwanda maintains peacekeepers in both Central African Republic and South Sudan.