By Jenkins R. S. Mulbah
As the topic under discussion speaks a lot to the forthcoming elections in Liberia, in the fullness of time, I hope we Liberians must embrace what is happening in Liberia. Sustainable peace and security in Liberia is something that we talk about, something that we acknowledge; even around the world it is something that everyone is wishing to achieve.
But the question is: are we ready for sustainable peace and security in Liberia? If so, these are things that one should take into strong consideration: proper justice system, respect for human rights, government based on the rule of law, reduce all forms of violence and propose that governments and communities find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity. That means strengthening the rule of law, reducing the flow of illicit arms and by bringing communities into institutions for good governance.
Far beyond what we have been confronted with is the issue with young people being used as menaces to peace and security, especially with high unemployment rate of youth in Liberia, and are being denied proper access to justice. Beyond this, youth play a vital role as positive agents of change, building sustainable peace in their societies. In 2011, Liberia had a population of approximately 3.5 million, 65% comprising youth. This shows that the last population census was profoundly dominated by youth.
My argument is that the youth sector must be recognized, because the youth are the main perpetrators of violence as we approach elections, and beyond. These prime stakeholders have been marginalized through various sectors in Liberia – their employment is unsteady, their education is unsteady, their access to fair justice system is unsteady, and their livelihoods are unsteady. I want to use this time to recommend, if Liberia wants to gain total peace and security, that these are things Liberia should strongly work on. We live in a country today (Liberia) that is increasingly divided. Some sectors enjoy sustained levels of peace, security and prosperity, while others fall into seemingly endless cycles of conflict and violence, especially the youth. This is by no means helpful to the growth and sustainability of peace in Liberia and must be addressed. As we prepare for elections and beyond, I want to recommend, if Liberia anticipates sustainable peace and security, the active participation of young people should be first and foremost. As a vulnerable sector of society, they require mechanisms through which they are able to improve their livelihoods through education, employment and justice. In my own view, our youth have no shortage of ideas for changing our society for the better, but proper guidance has not been provided to them.
Youth as a tool for preaching peace is one sure way of promoting peace in the forthcoming elections. It is no misnomer to say that when the engines of war are sparked in any nation, the youth become the fuel used by such engines in their operations. There is a saying that, “if you want to keep your things safe from thieves, then keep it with a thief.” I am not saying that youth are thieves. However, if Liberia wants to have sustainable peace and security, the youth must be inclusive to the stability of the nation, especially in the aforementioned areas. Moreover, inter-religious cooperation is necessary for peace and security to be achieved. Peace requires that we work to overcome barriers of race, religion, nationality and culture that have historically divided us. It is therefore critically important that Liberia’s government and organizations develop a more sophisticated and evidence based approach to young people in the pursuit of sustainable peace and security, embracing the capacities of young people to contribute to the building of more resilient and peaceful societies.
In some circumstances, some young people join an armed group because they conclude that it offers them certain options – whether access to income, resources, protection or social status, especially when they are vulnerable in the society. To conclude, if Liberia wants to enjoy sustainable peace and security, the education sector and employment sector must be the main focal points of the government, because seeing the young people of this nation uneducated and unemployed is a big problem. In any nation, where there is vulnerability there is instability that stifles the growth and development of that nation.