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As International Day of Peace observed…

WANEP concerned about youth violence

September 26, 2016 By Abu-bakarr Sheriff

As activists across the globe observed International Day of Peace last week (21 September), the Sierra Leone chapter of West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP-SL) said it was concerned about heightened youth violence in the country, highlighting recent clique violence and violent demonstrations involving youth across the country.

A statement released by the group said: “…WANEP-Sierra Leone is seriously concerned and worried about the spate of unprecedented violence among and between youths especially through Cliques and Gangs activities spreading across the country. Seemingly, WANEP is concerned about violence among school going pupils as well as domestic violence including rape. Young people in the formal and informal sectors ought to be seen actively involved in productive activities, civic engagement, peace and reconciliation.”

The statement ads that “through its analysis on National Early Warning System (NEWS) has recently observed a new phenomenon on violence as evidenced by reports of violence in Kono, Bonthe, Kabala, Bumbuna, Moyamba, Kenema, Bo, Kailahun, Port Loko, Freetown-Urban and Rural centres. This violence trend has threatened the peace and tranquillity of Sierra Leoneans to a point of undermining the fragile peace from our hard won democracy.”

The statement urged Sierra Leoneans to be mindful of the fact that elections would be conducted in early 2018, and that if the trend of violence persists, it could have a spillover effect on the electioneering process, thus “undermining the credibility of the elections and plunging the country back into a vicious cycle of violence and hatred.”

They called on the Inter-religious Council, Media, Civil Society, International Community and National Youth Commission to create a platform for youths to dialogue for peace, in a bid to break the cycle of impunity.

The group also urged the government to immediately curb the spate of violence in the country and to empower youths via conflict transformation mechanisms that target communities.

WANEP-Sierra Leone thus recommended that government “create an open space for youths inclusion in governance structures; break the cycle of impunity by enforcing the laws of the land; strengthen peacebuilding initiatives to educate, employ and empower the youths; that Peace Education should form part of the school curriculum in order to instill a culture of peace and tolerance among youths and school going pupils; and establishment of a National Peace Infrastructure.

WANEP-Sierra Leone is a National Civil Society Peacebuilding Network and partners with the Economic Community of West Africa States(ECOWAS) in the implementation and sustenance of the ECOWAS Early Warning Mechanism(ECOWARN), through its National Early Warning Systems (NEWS).

International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21st September each year, after the United Nations General Assembly dedicated the day to strengthening the ideals of peace within and among all nations and peoples.

The Theme for this year’s celebration was ‘Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace’ in reference to the SDGs which aim to end poverty and ensure prosperity for all.

Meanwhile, in a related release, the WANEP regional office in Ghana reiterated its commitment to peace efforts in the sub-region, and thanked ECOWAS for a laudable job in the maintenance of sustainable peace and security.

“We implore ECOWAS and its member states to ensure that programs aimed at rehabilitating [human security] victims is instituted including trauma healing, investment to resuscitate Small and Medium Scale businesses in order to improve livelihood. ECOWAS member states should also consider the institutionalization of long-term strategies aimed at preventing violent extremism and to adopt a more community approach in tackling insecurity in the region.”

It concludes thus: “In its capacity as the civil society partner to ECOWAS in peace and security particularly in the operationalization of the ECOWAS Early Warning Mechanism (ECOWARN), WANEP reiterate its support for the African Union vison of Silencing the Gun by 2020 and its continued commitment to support AU, ECOWAS and National Governments in its peace efforts.”

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