By: Kyokwijuka Alexander

East Africa has a stable, well-organized social system and a well-developed market economy, but economic globalization, membership in the African Union, migration and a changing family structure and rapid technological changes, among other conditions, are pressuring the region to change. These conditions need a foundation to ensure sustainability. East Africa’s 109 million children and youth accounted for 80 per cent of the total population in 2010. This group will be much larger by 2030, although its share will decline to a still significant 75 per cent of the region’s total population. Specifically, young people comprise of 75% in Uganda, 64% in Rwanda, 60% in Tanzania, Kenya 80% and 65% in Burundi. By far, the young people constitute majority of the population in the East African Community. Research indicates that the East African Community (EAC) has been facing new challenges towards peace, security and good governance in recent years. Terrorist attacks, religious tensions, piracy along the coast, disputes and battles over scarce natural resources, human and drug trafficking as well as an increase in organized crime have been troubling the region. In Kenya, 800-1500 people lost their lives and 180,000 – 600,000 were displaced in the 2007 Post-election crisis between December 27th, 2007 and 28th February, 2008.

In Uganda, Northern Uganda was the centre of a brutal, two-decade insurgency by a cult-like rebel group that saw 2 million people uprooted from their homes and tens of thousands kidnapped, mutilated or killed. The long conflict threatened to destabilize not only Uganda, but also the volatile central African region with Kony’s rebels seeking shelter in neighboring countries and violence spilling across borders. The memories of violence and unrest in Uganda have been refreshed by the geo-cultural conflicts in the Ruwenzori region from 26–27 November 2016 which left close to 100 people dead, 139 arrested and very many homeless. In Rwanda, over the course of 100 days from April 6 to July 16 1994, an estimated 800,000 to 1 million Tutsis and some moderate Hutus were slaughtered in the Rwandan genocide. A recent report has estimated the number to be close to 2 million and Rwanda has fairly battled the aftermath of the said Genocide. In Burundi, the UN reported 474 deaths since 2015 to date, ACLED raises the number to 1400 and 5000 have been detained.

A fairly consistent military control in Uganda and Tanzania is a good benchmark for the east African region. The threats of global terrorism can only be addressed by a regional network of Peace Ambassadors with a clear understanding and passion for leadership. Youth Aid Africa and Global Network of Peace Builders in partnership with Never Again Rwanda are therefore initiating a Regional Leadership and Peace Building Academy to train and facilitate the emergence of a third force, a regional network of leaders who are peace builders, capable of championing peace and social change.

Resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security, puts emphasis on the role of young men and women in peace building and countering violent extremism. And basing on Refugee Agency figures showing that Uganda took in 489,000 refugees from neighboring South Sudan in 2016, just last week, 6,000 more refugees entered Uganda from South Sudan, as well as steady flows from Congo and Burundi, we need more youth Peace builders and ambassadors in East Africa.
In my opinion, South Sudan and indeed east Africa need more peace ambassadors than young entrepreneurs, for stability and development.

The Writer is an Alumnus of the Peace Building Institute (PBI) in Rwanda and the Executive Director, Youth Aid Africa.

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