Engaging Youth Leaders in Peace Building 

Cameroon is currently facing threats to peace and coexistence for the past few years with Boko Haram insurgents attacking the Northern regions and violence and unrest in the two English speaking regions of the country that has claimed hundreds of lives since November 2016. As Government, civil society organizations and community groups strive towards regaining peace, it is worth noting that youths have been significantly absent in the peacebuilding processes regarding these conflicts despite the UNSC Resolution 2250 on Youth, peace and security which calls for the dare need to engage youth leaders in the process of promoting peace.  

Within the Mandela Washington Fellows Association Cameroon PAS Project, a one day interfaith dialogue was organized in Ngaoundere, Adamoua Region on Friday 19, 2019 by a team of four YALI fellows comprising of 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow Mirabel Ngong, two YALI Regional Center Fellows Nganjo Emmanuel, Paul Lola  and one YALI network member Vera Berinyuy in partnership with Community Empowerment Program Cameroon. 

The objective was to promote peace and understanding among youth leaders in Ngaoundere and engaging them in the peacebuilding process.

The fellows moderated an open group discussion with 26 youth leaders from Muslim and Christian denominations actively leading in the University of Ngaoundere, community groups, mosques, and church groups. 

Opening the session, Mandela Washington Fellow Mirabel Ngong welcomed the youth leaders and appreciated them for the great work they are already doing in the community. She reflected with the participants on the importance of peace and understanding in our communities. She cited SDG 16; which calls on the need for peace and justice for strong institutions. ‘To attend the development we all strive for especially an emerging economy, peace and collaboration is extremely vital ’

While reflecting on opportunities for youth leaders to develop their skills, she presented an overview of various exchange and leadership programs the American Government places at the disposal of Cameroonian youths such as the YALI MWF, RLC, Tech Women, TEA, Fulbright, Humphrey among many others.   

Peacebuilding and collaborative participation in the community

The first session was coordinated by YALI Regional Leadership Centre Fellow Paul Lola.  This session  focused first on defining the meaning of peace and diversity with participants giving definition and citing examples of inter-religion/cultural and language diversity in the area. The session then discussed causes of conflict including hate speech, tribalism, intolerance, fear, greed and ignorance. The facilitator then guided participants to identify ways to promote peace through active community participation in community life with a ripple effect that transcends to other regions of the country.  

Action plan to promote peace and coexistence. 

Nganjo Emmanuel, YALI RLC fellow, guided the participants on the need and strategy to take practical steps to ensuring peace. He cited the first world war which only ended  when  the parties differences were put aside and collaboration considered. ‘A great leader is someone who can separate somebody’s idea from the person himself’. He further cited Nepal as a country that has never experienced any ethnic religious clashes or riots,they  are home to more than 80 ethnic groups with 300 religions and 150 languages. 

PLEDGE: Participants ended this session by taking a pledge: 

I pledge to be an Ambassador of peace practicing the above mentioned commitments . 

Practical Session: Transformation of Soya bean. 

The last session moderated by YALI Network member Vera Berinyuy  was aimed at strengthening team spirit among youth leaders by engaging them in a 35 minutes fun filled practical session engaging all participant. During this session, the moderator educated the team on the uses of soya bean, its benefits and guided them the transformation of soya bean into soya milk and Tufu snack. Participants, followed the process, team-up to help at every point of the production process in a fun filled manner. 

The three hours interfaith dialogue session ended with participants pledging to be ambassadors of peace. 

They lauded the initiative of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Association Cameroon and the U.S Embassy Yaounde and called on the need for more of such forums in the Adamaoua region. 

Result : 

26 youth leaders  were spurred to promote the culture of peace in Ngaoundere and Adamaoua region as a whole. 

26 Youth leaders come up with practical strategies to promote the culture of peace.

Youth  leaders further gained practical skills in soya beans transformation while building team spirit (Production of Soya bean milk and Tufu snack which they shared and took some to their homes)