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What Happens After?

Nerima Martha Wako
Nairobi, Kenya
When speaking on youth and conflict we tend to focus on terrorist groups such as Boko Haram which started as a youth group and Al Shabaab where the majority of their members are youth. Then, thinking a bit more deeply on the matter, we also recognize the narrative that is often used by the peace building community. I call it a community because only specific people involved in these organizations would understand the types of terminologies that are often used and have only sprung up recently.

The other day I contemplated on the different context that we give young people that are surrounded by violent conflict. When we are in South Sudan we call a 13 year old a "child soldier", somewhere in the Middle East he may be referred to as a "terrorist", while in the United States - "a gang member".  When the narrative changes like this, can it affect how we perceive our youth after a conflict and how we treat them? These past few days there have been several important discussions around South Sudan as President Salva Kiir refused to sign the IGAD-Plus peace deal.

South Sudan, the newest state in our beautiful continent, has been fighting since the day she was born.  One cannot help but think about the young people who are in the midst of this conflict. Not only do we have child soldiers but in some areas education has ceased for decades. There has been a lapse in the education system.  What happens when South Sudan has peace?  How will the wheel that once turned and came to a halt keep turning once more?  What will the youth be taught in school? Those who were in school before the war, do they go back? Can they go back? How do they go back?  Will they be taught in school?

We have our eyes set on having this agreement signed, which - do not get me wrong - is highly important but, other factors have to come into place before this. First of all, when it comes to 'Youth'- we love to clump them into a homogeneous group of people not realizing that they are heterogeneous. We can have children, male or female, young parents, young rebels or soldiers (depending on the angle that you look at it) and so many more diverse groups that are clumped into the group youth. Is it an age?  There are cultures in Africa that once a boy passes a rite of passage- he is no longer considered a boy but a man for instance. Youth is not merely an age, especially culturally in Africa, it has never really been.

The peace process is complicated and it takes a long time: It is definitely not overnight. Has someone even asked what peace is to a South Sudanese 'youth'?  Because what you consider peace may not necessarily be peace to me. The actual cease of violence may be peace to you but there are other 'wars' that will have to be fought when it comes to recovery. All these international organizations have their eyes glued to the peace deal- but peace does not come by signing a piece of paper- it will come with the plans put in place afterwards and the actual implementation.

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of IGNITE THE YOUTH are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the entire society of IGNITE THE YOUTH.


  1. Thanks for sharing, nice post!

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