Delivered By Herbert BANGURA, Executive Director –Young Peace Builders (YPB)
As the world commemorates the International Day of Peace amidst challenging circumstances, the fight against radical extremism, lack of employment opportunities for our youth, lack of “Role Model” leaders in governance for our young people to emulate, and many more, I wish to use this opportunity to call on young people within Sierra Leone, the Mano River Union, Africa and across the world to the fact that this day is significant in that this year’s theme for the commemoration is;“The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace”.
Such a theme is coming at a time when we have our leaders making verbal commitments towards ensuring the implementation of the UN Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace & Security but with extremely little or no action to back their words. Instead our political systems are structured in such a way to demotivate young women and youth participation in governance and decision making processes.
My fellow youth, as Young Peace Builders across the world seek to build peace, voluntarily serving their communities and risking their lives to survive, those within conflict zones which were created by some of our very own selfish leaders, I urge us all to never give up the fight for a just and peaceful society.
Peace is possible! But if we must go by the words of the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon which states; “Let us all work together to help all human beings achieve dignity and equality; to build a greener planet; and to make sure no one is left behind, we have a responsibility ensuring the achievement of these and we must begin to hold our leaders accountable for their every deeds, corruption, nepotism, tribalism, injustice and the divide and rule tactics which continue to plunder our society and setting us up against ourselves.
As an organization that is made up of young people from diverse cultures, backgrounds and religions, Young Peace Builders do not see this day as a day for celebration but rather a time for reflection and a moment to revive our hope in our very abilities as young people with the power to change the dynamics of our current systems.
I am convinced that there is a wind of change / awakening blowing across Sierra Leone, Africa and the World especially because I have heard many young people beginning to ask questions like: Why must we be seen as useful citizens only when elections are around the corner? Why must they organize us into gangs and cliques to rage havoc on peaceful / harmless citizens which only protects their interests and then they abandon us labeling us with all kinds of names?
Why must we not be able to make our own decisions and be able to take responsibilities for our decisions? Why must we always be at the receiving end when we have the potentials to create a safe space for ourselves? Why must we continue to fight against and kill ourselves for political parties that does not respect nor regard the simple principles of Good governance?
We cannot ignore the fact that some countries are making slow progress in addressing, but we can also not ignore the fact that youth issues especially in Sierra Leona and most African countries has become a strong political tool in the hands of our leaders who finds pleasure in depriving young people from empowerment opportunities even though qualified.
The International Day of Peace must remind us all of the brutal experiences we’ve had in the past and the very challenges that the world is now facing that poses a serious threat to our common humanity. However, we ask that young people continue on the path of peace and be an emblem of peace, by staying away from violence and activating their strength in building a solid foundation that every nation may rely on. We have the ability to do that and we must let our leaders know that we needless words (politricks) and more positive actions towards ensuring a peaceful and sustainable society.
Times without number we have stated that we are not future leaders; we must and continue to lead the way towards the future, and ensuring a brighter tomorrow for our children and their children.
The recent spate of violence that led to the loss of properties and precious lives of young people in Sierra Leone (Kabala, Kono etc), the aftermath of the elections in Gabon, and the many unbearable challenges faced by our young women and girls within Sierra Leone, African and the World are not in any way helping to achieve the sustainable development goals.
Despite all these unfortunate incidences, we cannot falter in doing what is right by helping one another and standing up for what is right because we believe that this is the right path to go if we must ensure respect for human rights and dignity.
We want to see “Role Model” leaders who do not find pleasure or a reason to hold on to power continuously, arresting journalist at will and sending them to prison without a cause, depriving other political groups from participation in governance, abusing our women and girls, depriving people from economic opportunities, embezzling public funds, ignoring the plights of people with disability and creating the foundation for future violent conflicts.
We want to see a society in which everyone is treated equally regardless of your political, religious, cultural or ethnic affiliation.
We want to see effective and functioning good governance Institutions carrying out their duties devoid of political interference. We are calling on our leaders to think and re-think about what future they want to leave behind for their children and their children’s children.
For the sake of posterity, we urge the government of Sierra Leone to especially desist from ignoring the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which should serve as a path way in sustaining the peace of this nation.
As young people, we should have in mind that a dead man cannot advocate for his constituents, and we must always be peaceful in the field of advocating for our people. Like a wise man once said, ” our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenges of change “That is why we are calling on every young people to adhere to these words, “we should not be the story but let us all live to tell the story” even though we mourn the loss of our dear friends, families and colleagues whose lives were taken whiles peacefully advocating for their rights.
To our leaders, the idea of perceiving young people as less needed and that the society will run itself nicely without our participation has surly past.
I urge you to awake from your slumber. You should be looking at young people as women and men that have the energy, brains, imagination and talent that will solve difficult problems.
Like John Lennon stated, we imagine every life living in peace. You may call us a dreamer, but we are not alone. We hope someday you will join us, and the world will be a better place.
May Peace prevail in Sierra Leone!
May Peace prevail in Africa!
May Peace prevail on Earth!