African countries should harness the energy and creativity of the youths to revitalise action on violent extremism that has gained foothold amid poverty, conflicts and social exclusion.
Aya Chebbi, an African Union (AU) youth envoy made the call on the sidelines of a Pan African counter-terrorism forum on Thursday in Nairobi.
Chebbi said the success of counter-terrorism initiatives in Africa depended on robust engagement of the continent’s youthful population in policy formulation and awareness on the menace.
“Our governments should change policies that discriminate against youths in leadership and policy formulation to ensure they play a meaningful role in peace, security and prevention of violent extremism,”
The 31-year old Tunisian peace activist said the African regional high-level conference on counter-terrorism presented an opportunity to discuss greater involvement of youths to fight a vice, which is a drawback to the continent’s quest for stability, development and peace.
“Senior leadership and policymakers in this continent have a duty to engage the youths as partners in the war against terrorism.
“The youths are in a better position to fight radicalisation through countering divisive narratives spread by militant groups,’’ said Chebbi.
She urged governments and multilateral lenders to finance youth-led grassroots campaigns to prevent spread of violent ideologies in marginalised regions.
“Governments should support existing efforts to combat violent extremism that are led by the youth. We need to create space for the youths to make them feel they are part and parcel of efforts to fight terrorism,’’ she said.
She credited the success of counter-terrorism initiatives in northern Nigeria, Tunisia and Kenya to the meaningful engagement of young people.
“The youth in these countries are engaging religious and cultural leaders to address the root cause of violent extremism and offer sustainable solution,’’ she said.
Chebbi said that providing vulnerable youth with scholarships to pursue higher education combined with sports and culture can be affective in countering spread of violent ideologies.