Kenya: African youth leaders call on governments to involve youth

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African governments must create opportunities, support and strengthen
platforms for youth participation in decision-making at local, national, regional, and continental levels of governance, Africa youth leaders said today.

At least 100 youth leaders from 24 African countries meeting at Pan African Youth Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, reminded African governments to show their commitment to the African Youth Charter by developing and implementing comprehensive and coherent national youth policies that guarantee true and real youth participation in democratic governance and other decision-making bodies.

“African governments should refrain from playing lip service to youth inclusion and participation in political and other democratic processes,” said Ronald Rwankangi, Open Society Institute (OSI) Youth Initiative Programme Associate. “We want see real opportunities, a demonstration of political will that includes allocation of resources and access to information for effective youth participation and inclusion,” he added.

Dubbed the Youth AfriCamp 2010, the theme of this Pan African Forum
was: Youth, Media, and Governance. An initiative of Open Society Institute Youth Program, the Youth AfriCamp was the first of its kind in the region. The forum sought to provide a platform for positive transformation of African youth by encouraging them to harness new strategies and tools to get their message heard. The youth participated in a social media training to learn new media messaging techniques for effective participation in democratic governance in order to hold their governments accountable.

“Our agenda is to empower young activists in Africa to promote youth-driven change,” said Rudo Moyo, OSI Youth Initiative Program Officer. “We aim to use social media to mould the youth to become vehicles of peaceful, positive change for better development of this continent,” she said.

Youth are a critical resource in steering sustainable change in society. The young leaders cautioned that current marginalisation of youth in electoral and other decision-making processes heralds undemocratic exclusion of the majority of Africa ’s population and poses a serious threat to social stability and good governance in the continent. They reminded African governments that their commitment to the Africa African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance will be reflected on how governments enforce the public’s right to participate in free, credible and democratic political processes.

“Our governments must take a more holistic approach in our efforts to
promote and support democracy,” Simão Pascoal Hossi, a participant from Angola . “Democracy is not just a single event every few years; it is also about an ongoing process of governance that is accountable and responsive to the needs and will of citizens,” he added.

For effective participation in governance, the youth demanded access to information that their governments hold, education to promote rights awareness and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms.

The youth urged governments to ensure equal access to young men and
young womens’ participation in decision-making and prioritize policies
and programmes including youth advocacy, and support modern and youth
friendly communication channels such as the social media.

Hon Cecily Mbarire, Kenya ’s Assistant Minister for Tourism and Wildlife and Maina Kiai, the immediate former Chair of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), officiated at the forum.

Open Society Institute’s Youth Initiative seeks to empower youth to become active citizens who are willing and able to influence public life and promote open society ideals. Among the programs of the Youth Initiative is the Network Debate Program which was established in 1995.

The Debate Program encourages youth to engage in critical reasoned discussion about issues important to their lives and communities, and to call for positive change around the world. The Debate Program works with its spin-off organization, the International Debate Education Association (IDEA), to support international debate events and to provide technical assistance to local Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

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