The peace pole in post-conflict Sierra Leone
September 21, is the day declared by the United Nations General Assembly, as the International Day of Peace, a day devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.
The National Youth Coalition (NYC) in collaboration with all political party youth associations and United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone, UNIPSIL and the construction of a peace pole at the Peace Bridge which was initiated by His Excellency the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma (in photo) and UNIPSIL to commemorate the all important day, goes a very long way in the history of Sierra Leone.
The President of NYC recognizes the fact that the observation of the day marks true meaning of peace, what it encompasses and what the opponents are. It’s over nine years since the decade long war came to an end; it’s worth saying officially, in as much as the bulk of the nation has enjoyed sustainable peace.
The prospect of securing a sustainable peace in the absence of war is to have equal access, to affordable, quality basic goods and services in the country, irrespective of custom or location (rural settings), until then, the youths of Sierra Leone, especially the duty bearers should give PEACE a CHANCE.
One of the greatest challenges faced by youths in Sierra Leone is unemployment. While improvements in Sierra Leone’s political climate are seen as inching the country towards eventual sustainable development, the magnitude and political significance of youth unemployment posed a latent risk of instability in the nation struggling to consolidate peace and stimulate development.
There had been relatively few tangible programmes to make a significant impact on the lives of the sizable number of jobless young people. The formation of the National Youth Commission will help to solve most of the problems faced by the youths of Sierra Leone. President Koroma’s Government and development partners had agreed over the last few years to develop one integrated national programme in support of creating employment opportunities for the youth in various economic sectors. This brought about the Youth Employment Scheme, which youth serving Agencies like National Youth Coalition have been in support of.
If given the required leadership, the National Youth Commission will be successful in raising the necessary financial resources to implement its strategy for Sierra Leone. Lack of funding could jeopardize its new approach in the country.
As stated earlier, the state of youth unemployment in Sierra Leone is a growing concern. The youth unemployment level in the country is amongst the highest in the West African sub-region, standing at 45.8% of the total unemployment figure in 2008 (Ministry of Labour, 2008). This high unemployment figure on youth unemployment reveals only part of the challenge youths in the sub-region face, high rates of inactivity, underemployment and poor working conditions with long working hours and low pay and the vast many left to roam without any possibility to land a secured job.
The root of the problem is set in numerous factors, including skills mismatch, a growing supply of labour unmet by collective demand, political instability and difficult economic environments. In light of this, the link between development and security is propelling a range of stakeholders to consider youth employment key to stability and long term and sustained economic development. Some of these conclusions have been drawn from lessons learnt the many impacts of problems of youth unemployment, especially that of youths in the country.
As a result, President Ernest Bai Koroma and the leadership of the National Youth Coalition recognize youth unemployment in Sierra Leone as a potential trigger for social instability; the prolonged state of underdevelopment and economic stagnation. As has been indicated by the Truth and Reconciliation Report that came after the war, the problem of youth unemployment has been blamed as one leading factor in the prolongation of the ten year brutal war, a conflict that left the country in virtual disarray and gross underdevelopment.
Even though the country boasts of having a very youthful demography with 45% of its entire population been youths and 65% of the total youth population within the employment age; the problem of access to secure jobs continues to be problematic and as such is reflective on the socio-economic and security factors in the country. Beyond economic costs, high rates of youth unemployment and underemployment have social ramifications. Some youths with few job prospects and little hope of future advancement may see little alternative to criminal activities or joining armed conflicts as was evident in the early 90s when the country saw mass recruitment of unemployed youths into various fighting factions that were engaged in the rebel conflict. “Unemployed and underemployed [youth] are more exposed to conflicts and illegal activities” many of them fall prey to armed and rebel groups.
Youth unemployment in Sierra Leone exists in twofold, there are those known to have employable skills and those who virtually have very little or no skills; with the latter in the majority owing to the high rate of illiteracy and trades knowledge acquisition in the country.
Again, whilst the problem of youth unemployment could be blamed on the government’s inability to provide the requisite environment for the employment of its youths, it happens to be that most youths in the country also do not possess the necessary skills to be gainfully employed, skills that could help them be innovative and enterprising.
Youth unemployment is a neglected factor in the country’s growth and national development. As such, the problem of youth unemployment will be solved by the youth themselves, if only they are given the required leadership in the National Youth Commission.
Continued neglect of this problem will keep on impacting negatively on the already economic state of the country, resulting in threats to our security, and apparently disturb the social co-existence of the people of the country.
The fact is that unemployed and underemployed youth making up the vast many of the population of the country; whilst having immeasurable toll on the economic and growth implications, it at the same time expose them to conflicts and makes them susceptible to illegal activities.
By Fadda Bakish
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