WATCH: African states warned to prevent future conflict by addressing the pressing youth challenges

Published Nov 14, 2022


Video by Sihle Mavuso

Durban - With most African countries facing the perennial threat of conflicts, experts from different African peace structures have been warned that the youth poses the biggest trigger of conflicts.

On top of that, African countries have been warned to strengthen their governance structures so that the rule of law is upheld and there is always order within their jurisdictions.

This was the message that came out of most delegates who took part in the second retreat of the AU’s (African Union) peace and security council and the African peer review mechanism.

The retreat was held in the eastern coastal city of Durban in South Africa and it drew delegates from all over the continent.

The main gist of the day was peace, security and governance in the African continent as a whole, with a focus on preventing conflicts.

Among those who took part in the retreat was former Malawian president, Dr Joyce Banda, who succeeded the late Bingu Wa Mutharika in 2012.

She was a panellist in a discussion titled “the nexus between governance, peace and security in Africa".

Most panellists concurred that if African youth issues are properly addressed, there would be fewer conflicts in the troubled continent facing wars, terrorism and violent protests.

Banda recalled how the army was forced to back down from preventing her from succeeding the late president.

She said the army had even picked a candidate (believed to be Peter Wa Mutharika, a brother of Bingu) to take power and was prepared to block her.

The army only backed down when the youth stood up and threaten to burn the seat of power.

She said even though the youth stood up, that is not enough in the continent, institutions of governance should be strengthened so that such things do not happen.

Turning to African leaders, she said they must make work for the people all the time and develop their countries so that the youth does not see a need to migrate.

“They have been screaming for the longest time, and we are ignoring them ... in trying to ignore them we are not doing them any good.

“Our young men and women are dying in the Mediterranean (sea), they are dying in the Middle East,” Banda told the gathering.

Another think tank that took part in the conference is Durban-based Accord (African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes), a civil society organisation working throughout Africa to bring creative African solutions to the challenges posed by conflict on the continent.

The think tank’s founder and chief executive, Dr Vasu Gounden, delivered a speech on behalf of Graca Machel, their chair of the board of trustees.

Gounden said the continent's record on conflict prevention is embarrassingly poor, yet it is known that it is cheaper to prevent a conflict than deploying peacekeepers once a peace deal has been inked.

“We all know, as we have heard so many times, that prevention is ‘cheaper’ than deploying peacekeeping forces once a conflict has erupted, or engaging in post-conflict reconstruction once a peace agreement has been signed.

“We have heard all this, but still, we are not doing enough to put this conflict prevention into practice,” Gounden said.

Gounden warned the continent that nowadays it is easier to mobilise the youth and wreak havoc than it was decades ago.

He cited the case of South Africa’s July 2021 unrest which erupted when former president Jacob Zuma was jailed.

Video by Sihle Mavuso

Speaking at the event, Mohammed Foday Yumkella, Sierra Leone's minister for political and public affairs and the chair of the APR committee of focal points, hailed the recent Tigray peace talks, saying they are giving meaning to "African solutions for African problems."

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