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Silencing Guns - African Youth Speak Up

by Ruth Aine - 25 September 2014

The African Union 2063 agenda has aspirations that need to be achieved in the next 50 years (from when it was instituted last year). The aspirations range from a united influential global partner to an Africa of good governance. Aspiration 4, for example, is for a peaceful and secure Africa:

By 2020 all guns will be silent. Mechanisms for peaceful resolution of conflicts will be functional at all levels. A culture of peace and tolerance shall be nurtured in Africa’s children and youth through peace education

Martin Luther King, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkurumah and the forefathers of this land had one thing in common - they were dreamers of a better people, a better world and a better Africa. Today we take time to walk in those footsteps to continue dreaming of a better people, a better world and a better Africa.

This is what Agenda 2063 is all about: a dream that one day we will have a united African people. United not only by name and brand, but by heart, mind and soul, fighting to achieve the same goals. A continent that cares and looks after its own, puts children first, where women and men stand equal and are able to express themselves as one unit. A continent where the young are engaged and empowered and given the opportunity to express themselves – it is all a dream, one that we ought to passionately pursue if this is what we want to see.

A few days ago 200 young people from all African countries met to deliberate about silencing guns in Africa by the year 2020. It was a very hearty and moving conversation. This is because almost all of us have been in one way or another affected by guns.

I remember being in primary school in 1996 when the rebel group, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) first struck in Western Uganda. We were living with an aunty then who started to narrate what would happen if our village was to be invaded. She talked of how we would have to look for shelters during the night and then come back home in the morning. The thought of not being able to go to school, running away from guns and bloodshed, just did not go down well with me. I got so worried and afraid. The place where the fighting was happening was about three or four districts away, but even so, I was scared.

My father also told us what the 1985-86 war was like. That was the year he married my mother. According to him, his preferred best man could not make it because of the war. So he ended up having to look for a stand-in for the day.

I can vividly remember the taste of powdered milk and canned beef as we were growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, even though I was still young. I was told that because we lived in a school (my parents were both teachers), those were supplies from the World Food Programme. And yet my story is not anywhere near the escalating harrowing tales that we have been hearing about the effects of guns in our continent. A look at the news and it is all war and terror.

I cannot imagine what the children in Somalia are going through and what the women in the troubled Kivu region in the DRC have to endure. Uganda has for a very long time been receiving refugees and looking at them on the news, having no identity and home, is heartbreaking.

Guns in Africa have brought us so much pain and so much anguish, but they are still a reality that we have to deal with. There are too many guns on the continent and so far they are doing more harm than good.

Meeting with these young people made me realize that everything is possible. That the will and determination of young people will go a long way in taking care that these dreams we and our leaders have agreed upon for Africa will come to fruition.

The youth made recommendations for strengthening democracy in Africa which were taken in point by the African Governance Architecture (AGA) Secretariat under the African Union. They include:

  • The AU should partner and support national and regional youth structures to promote ratification and domestication, as well as assessment and reporting on compliance of AU shared values and instruments.
  • The AGA, through its cluster on Democracy, should provide opportunities for young people across the continent to participate and engage effectively with various organs and institutions of the AU and RECs on issues of elections, parliaments, political parties, amongst others.
  • The AGA Secretariat should coordinate and partner with the AU Youth Programme to develop a continental youth mentorship initiative towards strengthening democratic governance, rule of law, constitutionalism, human rights and humanitarian assistance.
  • The AU should encourage and support member states to put in place structures that foster and strengthen conflict resolution, peacemaking and peacebuilding at national, regional and continental levels.

These, among others, were the voice of the young putting together a dream for Africa. Can this be achieved? Yes, it can. We now need to position ourselves to be the change that we need to be. Bloodshed and hatred need to stop featuring in today’s news and the picture frame for the continent. The youth have spoken and indeed, it can be done. Our dreams are indeed valid.

 

Ruth Aine Tindyebwa
Blogger/Online Communications

Read her personal blog; IN DEPTH which is at www.ruthaine.com

Read more about the author and her view on being a futurist.

 

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