Ahead of the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union and in support of the AU’s theme for the year 2020: “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conductive Conditions for Africa’s development,” Africa Peace Zones, a youth-led campaign has been launched to sensitise and mobilise citizen groups to join the AU in its disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration efforts.
Africa Peace Zones is a network of African youths using innovative mechanisms to support peacebuilding by promoting the concept of “peace spaces” as non-violent means of resolving disputes across the continent, through negotiations, mediation and reconciliation as an alternative to violent conflicts. It seeks to serve as an intergenerational platform where young people and other African citizens can discourse the root causes of conflict and commit to change.
“It is the first time that a grassroots youth movement has been formed to support an AU campaign. It is evidence of the growing power of Africa’s youth, strengthened by improved connectivity and inspired by examples of civic activism from across the continent and internationally,” stated Desire Karakire, one of the campaign’s coordinators from Uganda.
Africa Peace Zones was borne out of the realization that some of Africa’s strongest attributes – resilience, tolerance, kindness, generosity, problem solving and team spirit – have taken a backburner, paving way for mistrust, suspicion and animosity. Consequently, as agents of change, the young campaigners, whose future relies heavily on a peaceful and stable continent, are rallying like-minded youth, communities, local governments and businesses to join in efforts to encourage African citizens to take constructive action against violent conflicts.
“We are 400 million young people on the continent of Africa and we can create peace. But we can do so much faster, with the support of others, especially the private sector,” says Gorata Chepete, a youth volunteer for the campaign from Botswana. “We are calling upon all businesses to join the ‘Africa Peace Zones’ movement by turning their offices, factories, mine sites and outlets into Peace Zones – initiating dialogue, building capacity, raising awareness and helping us address the burning issue of youth unemployment.
The youth-led peace advocacy campaign which kicked-off in January with an online memorial to honour victims of violent conflicts in Africa will run for the entire year – it has an ambitious goal of mobilizing, at least, 1 in every 4 youths on the continent as well as galvanizing support from other stakeholders.
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