Bujumbura, Burundi, Tuesday 9 May 2023: More than 120 delegates representing young people, governments, Regional Economic Communities and Civil Society Organisations have gathered in Bujumbura, Burundi to advocate for more inclusive participation of youths in peacebuilding and conflict prevention in east Africa.
The three-day meeting opened today with calls from all partners to recognize the strategic role that young people have continued to play on governance issues and how to deepen their role in peace processes in the region.
Burundi’s Minister of East African Affairs, Youth, Sports and Culture Dr. Ezechiel Nibigira addressed the meeting with a call to governments in East Africa to include young people in national programmes and give them the needed support to achieve their aspirations.
“The seemingly low levels of inclusivity of young people in many national programmes and turning a blind eye to their demands has contributed to some conflicts which could have easily been prevented,” he noted.
He pledged Burundi government’s commitment to work with the young people.
African Union Commission representative for the Great Lakes Region and Head of the Liaison Office in Burundi, H. E. Sghair M’bereck said the adoption of the Continental Framework on Youth Peace and Security in 2023 and its 10-year implementation plan, added the much-needed impetus to the empowerment of youth in peace and Security.
“Conflict is multi-dimensional and it requires that a wide range of stakeholders work together to address conflict which must be done in a coordinated manner,” he said. “I believe the Continental Framework and its implementation plan have provided the Member States, AU and RECs a very good tool to include a very important stakeholder, the youth, in the quest for peace and security in a coherent manner,”
The Head of Governance, Peace and Security (GPS) at COMESA Secretariat Ms Elizabeth Mutunga added that RECs, and Regional Mechanisms are a good vehicle to support the empowerment of youth as they have a platform to encourage sharing of experiences and exchanges on best practice.
“We have found that there is normally a lot of value on youth learning from youth based on experiences. This makes them good providers of skills to empower the youth people,” she noted.
The COMESA governance, peace and security programmes has commenced an internship programme to provide hands-on experience to youth people in an environment that supports regional integration and regional peace and security.
Ms Mutunga said this has become a symbiotic relationship, where the engaged youth acquire valuable skills, while COMESA benefits from the young people’s innovative ideas.
Others that spoke are Mr Geoffery Kirenga, Save the Children Burundi Mission Director, Angel Mbuthia, the Chair of the COMESA Youth Advisory Panel and Diana Chado, the AU Youth Ambassador for Peace East Africa Region.
The Burundi conference is the third of a series of four conducted in the COMESA Region. The last regional workshop will be for north Africa and will be convened during the second half of this year.