Youth and Electoral Violence in Africa
This piece is structured into two sections;
- Reflection and general overview of written essays on why youths partake in electoral (political) violence. With personal definition of a Youth and suggestions for meaningfully strategies in involving youths in the national conversation? The expression represented in this writing is based on secondary data.
- The next point is my observation to why youth partake in carrying out the dirty works of politicians. Though, I am still to fully understand the reason.
‘Much has been achieved in the field of political liberalisation in Africa since the early 1990s’ (Lissa Laakso). The most remarkable of these have been on the level of political and civic consciousness; and also on election qualities, which has significantly improved. Even at that, violence remains a threat to the security of many Africans. Over the decades, I have witnessed and read essays on how political elites use violence as a tool for national conversations. Should that be the scenario – Is violence therefore a necessary evil? Or maybe it does have a very logical outcome.
Contemporary Africa, according to Patrick Quantin (cited by Lissa, 2007), is not so different from France in the 19th century. Meanwhile, according to Andreas, African leaders have monopolised the state by use of violence. In addition, he also believes that there exist certain principal reason for African conflict- i) Political Exclusion, ii) social and Economic Exclusion (discrimination) by states officials. Nonetheless, Andreas’ observation may not be very far from the truth –
A clear reflection over this background information will thus enable us to carefully link the relationship between youths and electoral violence. Acknowledging the fact that youth are much unrepresented in the political conversation. Thus, how come they suddenly become agents of political riots – better still ‘violence actors’?
You may differ with me on this. Nonetheless, this is just a conversation to provoke discussions around youth political alienation and their involvement in electoral violence. In this regard, it will be nice to share our independent experiences on what we think? And how electoral processes in our respective countries has been so far-
As change makers, I believe this is a space for interrogation, analysis and recommendation. We need to discuss the happenings around us and how the people around us get affected by these happenings. I expect that the discussion we are about to engage, will provide us with some insight to examine meaningful ways youth can become active participants in the national discourse, especially in areas of Security, Health , Development and Socio-Political issues etc.
I understand that throughout my discussion I have not made mention on who is a youth? I feel this should be left open for further debate.
To begin my response, I will commence with my understanding of who a youth is? In a rough and simple language, I think that a youth is any person irrespective of gender, marital status, and education below 32 years. In addition, these person must not necessary have kids.
Traditionally, my people will define a youth as any boy/girl who is unmarried, jobless and still living with his parents. Anyway, those are a few random understanding of who is a youth. This varies with the community. And how these persons engage in violence shall be my greatest concern.
Political analysts like Nathaniel King, Vicky Randall, and Mehler… will say; youth integration in acts of violence is as a result of youth disgruntlement with government policies, grudges, corruption, poverty, tribalism (nepotism), party allegiances, language discrimination, unemployment, high cost of living etc. Some political scientists go further to analyse youth involvement in political violence as due to –political intimidation, manipulation by politicians, and / or in promise for material reward by politicians.in a similar term, Ibrahim Abdullah believes that – since the state fails to recognise the valour of the youth. It thus leaves the youth with limited choice, except to fight and claim their recognition. Which I definitely agree to, but looking at it from the Cameroon perspective, I believe the youths are manipulated with the intention to gain material rewards. Ironically, all the promises are never fulfilled. And in a thought, they feel remaining adherent to parties will enable them achieve their desire.
Acknowledging all these, there is also the notion that youth alienation even at the family levels, makes them feel very empty and powerless under the authority of parents. As a result, they can venture into political rioting (violence) as a means to command authority with a gun. While I was writing, I immediately thought of the category of youth. And in what category do we often refer to as violence agent. E.g. 1) urban or rural youths 2) Educated or Non-educated?
Interesting, clearly cases over the past years proved that academically achieved youth fear to jeopardize (compromised) their educational portfolios for violence. The perfect example to this was the Sierra Leone (Liberia) civil war. Just as Ultas in his observation said, I have also noticed that when the subject of youth is discussed the rural (and uneducated) youth are absent. And in most instances, these are the persons who sacrifices more to impact change. Again I am still unaware to why youth dare to partake sometime in effecting the dirty works of politicians.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks Ziwoh