Connecting and Engaging Young People for Peace Actions in Cameroon

3/19/2021

Overview of the Panelists: 1- Mr. Ebot Jean; Senior Youth Counselor/Assistant Research Officer for Cooperation. 2- M. Ngeh Rekia Nfunfuh; Head of the Cooperation and Statistic Division at MINJEC. 3- M. Lukong Mirabelle; Common Wealth Sub-director. 4- Mr. Besong Bawack Mallet; Administrator and Human resources coordinator at Local Youth Corner Cameroon. 5- M. Noutchou Prudence; Senior Program Coordinator at Network for Solidarity, Empowerment, and Transformation for All.

Into the Conference The session kicks off at 10:30 a.m. with the welcoming words by the Host, Mr. Ebot Jean. “Youths as factors and actors of violence and terrorism.” This was the main topic brought on the scene as M. Ngeh Rekia picked up the microphone. She did mention the classification of socio-political violence extremism into push and pull factors. She listed marginalization, persecution, limited access to politics and freedom of speech, injustice, and liberty, among others, as the push factors influencing extremism. The appeal of violent extremism from extremist groups, which provide their members with money, food, shelter, and good health for their services, attracting the vulnerable population, as a result of human nature, is the main pull factor. She made clear that human nature is the most important and alarming factor for such violence as she quotes the example of people who join the separatist groups not because they love killing but because they look for a means to earn a living, and she also stressed that this vulnerable group could not be blamed. She described youths as the most vulnerable category, owing to their lack of consciousness and understanding of the gravity of events happening around them. “Youths are at an age that they believe they can do and undo,” she said, citing this as the main reason why youths are the most vulnerable. If the government works for peace without considering the youths' opinions, peace would be compelled to fail since the youths make up 60% of the population. As a result of this appreciation, the government has taken initiatives such as developing workshops where low-income youths and school dropouts can meet, be trained, develop practical skills, and gain job experiences. She also listed the National Youth Integration Fund, which is a body in charge of financing projects which are deemed effective, based on predetermined terms of money refund after the project is completed. Additionally, M. Ngeh stated the development of a project to assist and smoothen the return of the diaspora community who are stuck abroad as a way for peace promotion. She concluded by adding that the government should sit down with the youths, seeing them not more as a problem to be solved, but as a solution to the country's challenges, because we would not be able to make it if we do not work together!

Aimed at changing the mindset of young persons, the Commonwealth, represented by its sud-director M. Lukong Mirabelle, has implemented workshops and sensitization campaigns such as the PCVE (Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism) initiative. Aside from that, they have been collaborating on a slew of awareness-raising projects in educational spaces, Commonwealth clubs, and among young people in diverse communities. They set up a training program, which educated over 5000 youths in the most endangered areas, such as the Southwest, Northwest, and the Far North regions. During this training, those who laid down their arms had the opportunities to share their experiences and drives for joining the separatist groups and the reasons why they decided to resign from violence. She concluded by saying that peace is not only the absence of war, and she invited youth and all interested bodies to join the Commonwealth in his actions to make peace out of this violence.

At our level, we are all doing things that are contributing to building peace. The small act of helping someone in difficulty is already, in one way or the order promoting peace, be it internal or external peace. We were reminded of these words as Mr. Besong Bawack Mallet took the stage. He mentioned some well-known youth peacebuilding organizations, including NewSETA's REPAIR program and the Cameroon mediators' network, among others. He urged an increasing number of young people to participate in such activities, thereby promoting sustainable peace. He mentioned the use of social media for non-legitimate purposes such as radicalization and long-term conflict (sustainable conflict). He talked about, the Cameroon mediators' network, a first of its kind event, in which 35 young people were selected from conflict-ridden regions such as the Northwest, Southwest, Far North, and East to attend a workshop in Yaounde. The young people were taught mediation, legislation, and dialogue skills during this workshop. After that, 17 young people were chosen to form the first Cameroon Youth Mediators Network, a group of young people who strive to promote peace at their local level. Tabi Louis is one of these young mediators who, since he graduated from the program, has gained the attention of the Governor of the Northwest region for his efforts to remove young people from the bush through a negotiation process rather than being labeled as refugees to scare them away from integration. Some young people, comedians, and musicians such as Noel Tasha and Marc Anuge use their talents to contribute to the creation of peace-oriented content. Every small action counts; no matter how insignificant it might seem, it could have prevented someone from committing suicide or homicide somewhere. Social media platforms should be moderated to avoid inciting conflict by disseminating false information. He mentioned the existence of Prison Preneurs, young people who received grace and were released as a result of transformational observation while in prison. They have decided to influence their peers to prevent violence in our societies on a large scale. He concluded by mentioning and encouraging the efforts made by a family green cooperation in the North region that is responding to climate change by ensuring a source of income for the community through the availability of water for agriculture, without which there will be hunger and eventually conflict. As a result, they work to promote peace by ensuring that community members have enough food to eat.

M. Noutchou Prudence, the last speaker, captivated the audience with her amazing PowerPoint presentation on how to engage and become an effective peacebuilder. She went on to define youth engagement and participation as a young person's ability to participate in organizations and make decisions that affect their rights in their communities. Most countries experience a higher percentage of the youth population relative to the total population. Regrettably, this larger population is the one that suffers the most from conflicts and violence. As a result, we are expected to take steps to reduce violence in our communities. She discussed the various layers of youth participation, focusing on the main level where the youth should be found, such as assigning, consulting, initiating activities between youth and the older generation, directing young people, and encouraging young people to do activities on their own. She revealed that current youth participation is mostly based on tokenism, decoration, and manipulation, which prevents young people from sharing their ideas and exercising their right to freedom of speech. The main factors for peacebuilding are youth participation, protection, prevention, partnership, disconnection, and declaration, as stated by resolution 2250 as many other resolutions aimed at enforcing peace in our society. Youth make up more than 60% of the population. It is rather unfair that the bulk of the population is not permitted to vote and choose their leaders thereby hindering peace. She added that as young people, we should fight against interreligious conflicts to promote peacebuilding in our various communities.

Conclusion: Mr. Ebot Joel, the Moderator, concluded the conference by thanking the youths for their mobilization at the conference, as well as their keen attention and contributions to the event's successful unfolding. After that, there was a photoshoot, and then the participants were given a few minutes to network with one another before the day came to an end. Since the youth population is the most vulnerable and susceptible to violent extremism, the government should make every effort to engage youths in activities aimed at promoting peacebuilding in our nation. Every movement, no matter how insignificant, counts! Dear young people, we should not be afraid to participate in peacebuilding actions in our country. If you have an idea, grow it, and if you have an opinion, express it; remember, your voice matters! “Young people alone by no means have the answer to the challenges the world and communities around the world are facing. Neither do the older generations. By bringing together the vision of young people today and the experience of older generations, new answers to challenges are created" Matilda Fleming.

Overview of the Panelists: 1- Mr. Ebot Jean; Senior Youth Counselor/Assistant Research Officer for Cooperation. 2- M. Ngeh Rekia Nfunfuh; Head of the Cooperation and Statistic Division at MINJEC. 3- M. Lukong Mirabelle; Common Wealth Sub-director. 4- Mr. Besong Bawack Mallet; Administrator and Human resources coordinator at Local Youth Corner Cameroon. 5- M. Noutchou Prudence; Senior Program Coordinator at Network for Solidarity, Empowerment, and Transformation for All.

Into the Conference The session kicks off at 10:30 a.m. with the welcoming words by the Host, Mr. Ebot Jean. “Youths as factors and actors of violence and terrorism.” This was the main topic brought on the scene as M. Ngeh Rekia picked up the microphone. She did mention the classification of socio-political violence extremism into push and pull factors. She listed marginalization, persecution, limited access to politics and freedom of speech, injustice, and liberty, among others, as the push factors influencing extremism. The appeal of violent extremism from extremist groups, which provide their members with money, food, shelter, and good health for their services, attracting the vulnerable population, as a result of human nature, is the main pull factor. She made clear that human nature is the most important and alarming factor for such violence as she quotes the example of people who join the separatist groups not because they love killing but because they look for a means to earn a living, and she also stressed that this vulnerable group could not be blamed. She described youths as the most vulnerable category, owing to their lack of consciousness and understanding of the gravity of events happening around them. “Youths are at an age that they believe they can do and undo,” she said, citing this as the main reason why youths are the most vulnerable. If the government works for peace without considering the youths' opinions, peace would be compelled to fail since the youths make up 60% of the population. As a result of this appreciation, the government has taken initiatives such as developing workshops where low-income youths and school dropouts can meet, be trained, develop practical skills, and gain job experiences. She also listed the National Youth Integration Fund, which is a body in charge of financing projects which are deemed effective, based on predetermined terms of money refund after the project is completed. Additionally, M. Ngeh stated the development of a project to assist and smoothen the return of the diaspora community who are stuck abroad as a way for peace promotion. She concluded by adding that the government should sit down with the youths, seeing them not more as a problem to be solved, but as a solution to the country's challenges, because we would not be able to make it if we do not work together!

Aimed at changing the mindset of young persons, the Commonwealth, represented by its sud-director M. Lukong Mirabelle, has implemented workshops and sensitization campaigns such as the PCVE (Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism) initiative. Aside from that, they have been collaborating on a slew of awareness-raising projects in educational spaces, Commonwealth clubs, and among young people in diverse communities. They set up a training program, which educated over 5000 youths in the most endangered areas, such as the Southwest, Northwest, and the Far North regions. During this training, those who laid down their arms had the opportunities to share their experiences and drives for joining the separatist groups and the reasons why they decided to resign from violence. She concluded by saying that peace is not only the absence of war, and she invited youth and all interested bodies to join the Commonwealth in his actions to make peace out of this violence.

At our level, we are all doing things that are contributing to building peace. The small act of helping someone in difficulty is already, in one way or the order promoting peace, be it internal or external peace. We were reminded of these words as Mr. Besong Bawack Mallet took the stage. He mentioned some well-known youth peacebuilding organizations, including NewSETA's REPAIR program and the Cameroon mediators' network, among others. He urged an increasing number of young people to participate in such activities, thereby promoting sustainable peace. He mentioned the use of social media for non-legitimate purposes such as radicalization and long-term conflict (sustainable conflict). He talked about, the Cameroon mediators' network, a first of its kind event, in which 35 young people were selected from conflict-ridden regions such as the Northwest, Southwest, Far North, and East to attend a workshop in Yaounde. The young people were taught mediation, legislation, and dialogue skills during this workshop. After that, 17 young people were chosen to form the first Cameroon Youth Mediators Network, a group of young people who strive to promote peace at their local level. Tabi Louis is one of these young mediators who, since he graduated from the program, has gained the attention of the Governor of the Northwest region for his efforts to remove young people from the bush through a negotiation process rather than being labeled as refugees to scare them away from integration. Some young people, comedians, and musicians such as Noel Tasha and Marc Anuge use their talents to contribute to the creation of peace-oriented content. Every small action counts; no matter how insignificant it might seem, it could have prevented someone from committing suicide or homicide somewhere. Social media platforms should be moderated to avoid inciting conflict by disseminating false information. He mentioned the existence of Prison Preneurs, young people who received grace and were released as a result of transformational observation while in prison. They have decided to influence their peers to prevent violence in our societies on a large scale. He concluded by mentioning and encouraging the efforts made by a family green cooperation in the North region that is responding to climate change by ensuring a source of income for the community through the availability of water for agriculture, without which there will be hunger and eventually conflict. As a result, they work to promote peace by ensuring that community members have enough food to eat.

M. Noutchou Prudence, the last speaker, captivated the audience with her amazing PowerPoint presentation on how to engage and become an effective peacebuilder. She went on to define youth engagement and participation as a young person's ability to participate in organizations and make decisions that affect their rights in their communities. Most countries experience a higher percentage of the youth population relative to the total population. Regrettably, this larger population is the one that suffers the most from conflicts and violence. As a result, we are expected to take steps to reduce violence in our communities. She discussed the various layers of youth participation, focusing on the main level where the youth should be found, such as assigning, consulting, initiating activities between youth and the older generation, directing young people, and encouraging young people to do activities on their own. She revealed that current youth participation is mostly based on tokenism, decoration, and manipulation, which prevents young people from sharing their ideas and exercising their right to freedom of speech. The main factors for peacebuilding are youth participation, protection, prevention, partnership, disconnection, and declaration, as stated by resolution 2250 as many other resolutions aimed at enforcing peace in our society. Youth make up more than 60% of the population. It is rather unfair that the bulk of the population is not permitted to vote and choose their leaders thereby hindering peace. She added that as young people, we should fight against interreligious conflicts to promote peacebuilding in our various communities.

Conclusion: Mr. Ebot Joel, the Moderator, concluded the conference by thanking the youths for their mobilization at the conference, as well as their keen attention and contributions to the event's successful unfolding. After that, there was a photoshoot, and then the participants were given a few minutes to network with one another before the day came to an end. Since the youth population is the most vulnerable and susceptible to violent extremism, the government should make every effort to engage youths in activities aimed at promoting peacebuilding in our nation. Every movement, no matter how insignificant, counts! Dear young people, we should not be afraid to participate in peacebuilding actions in our country. If you have an idea, grow it, and if you have an opinion, express it; remember, your voice matters! “Young people alone by no means have the answer to the challenges the world and communities around the world are facing. Neither do the older generations. By bringing together the vision of young people today and the experience of older generations, new answers to challenges are created" Matilda Fleming.

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