“Elections is like water, it’s very fluid but we have an opportunity to shape the directions”
It is within the view of this captivating statement by Anne Maua, a youth from Coastal Kenya that the ‘Youth for Peaceful Elections’ forum was shaped.
The forum brought together 30 diverse young people from Kenya, aimed at reflecting approaches that can enable young people to meaningfully engage in electoral processes while promoting peace. It was convened by Arigatou International – End Child Poverty in collaboration with Norwegian Church Aid’s Eastern Africa Regional Peace programme and other partners.
Among the approaches catalyzed in the forum was the need for meaningful and actionable civic education among young people. Discussions in the forum revealed that civic education enhances meaningful youth participation and engagement in in governance and public processes. Youth were urged to be zealous about civic education processes initiated by either the government or Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). This would better their understanding and engagement in public processes including elections, thus avoid being used to fuel violence in electoral processes.
“Ignorance about civic education is not an excuse for the youth; they need a better future. They must not be silent, and must participate creatively in the calls to action” Carine Umutoniwase, young peacebuilder.
Young people were further called upon to take stock of the United Nations (UN) resolution 2250 (on youth peace and security) to embolden their engagement and actions towards promoting peaceful elections. They were reminded of the 5 pillars of the resolution (participation, protection, prevention, partnership, integration and disarmament) and how these can be infused as guiding tenets towards peaceful elections.
“Sustainable development is only realised if peace prevails after elections. It is the responsibility of every young person to ensure we deliver on the aspiration of a prosperous nation. We must encourage honesty, transparency and accountability from voter registration to elections” John Musila, youth.
In enabling young people to promote peace amid elections, there was need to promote safe spaces for youth. Such spaces would enable youth to freely express themselves, where they can convene and air out their views and emotions and a space that can address youth needs and interests.
“Youth space cannot be confined by time or scope; it should transcend time age and tribe, a space that is not necessarily homogenous. It should address the youth needs and interest” Stellas Kasura, youth.
This forum was the first in a series of follow up conversations and actions towards ensuring youth promote peace ahead of the general elections in Kenya, 2022. Some of the follow up actions will be radio talk shows as well as social media engegements.