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Published:April 28th, 2006 04:51 EST
Youth - Stand up for Africa

Youth - Stand up for Africa

By Jermaine Uwahiriwe

Young men and women are often used to playing a passive role in their country's development. In East African region, youth were often used to play an active role in conflicts of all kinds: in Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda and in Burundi. The same youth have now shown the will to turn the page and to play a new role. They vowed to never rest until they achieve their goal: development.

In the 1990’s, after several world summits that focused on the MDGs (millennium development goals), there was no special call for the African youth in achieving these goals. Today, African youth show a strong and enthusiastic determination to participate.

Significant and measurable improvements in African lives cannot be attained without the commitment of all, most importantly the youth. In East Africa, young people have decided to act together on the road towards achieving the MDGs. When Kenyans, Tanzanians, Rwandans, Ethiopians and Ugandans met in Nairobi in August 2005 they decided to first accomplish what they called "preconditions to achieve the MDGs": fighting disengagement, combating corruption, moving from marginalization to mobilization by using radio, TV, internet and newspapers, getting familiar with ICT, calling their respective Governments to complement youth activities, creating and giving legitimacy to national youth councils and even world youth forums, participating in unity and peace building.

The conference was an opportunity for every country to show where it is in achieving the MDG’s. Kenya was proud of achieving universal primary education, while Rwanda couldn’t wait to show off both its high level of women empowerment (number one in the world with 49% of women in leading positions) and universal primary education achievement. Rwanda is a unique case in achieving MDG’s because of the 1994 genocide and its legacy. After the horrible genocide, all indicators were dramatically reversed, human resources were killed, infrastructure destroyed. Rwanda found itself far behind from the starting line. Rwanda had to deal, first, with many challenges, including unity and reconciliation.

All East African countries are actually on the same level in achieving the MDG’s. They all need youths' hand to reduce poverty and hunger, to resolve armed conflicts, to ensure environmental sustainability as well as combating HIV AIDS, Malaria, or any other diseases. Nevertheless, from Kenya to Burundi via Rwanda, youth need employment, awareness, and mobilization as a key to get engaged.

Together, East African youth decided to start a youth media network that would coordinate all their activities, thus linking them to other youth from all walks of the world.

Participants were pleased to relish all cultures present in Nairobi during the conference period (kikuyu tales, massaï jewels, Rwandan traditional dance, Tanzanian dress), wishing to build from them a single-- but wonderful-- East African culture.