The Burden of the Past - Youth Role in Building Sustainable Peace


Ronald T. Magomo

The Southern African Youth Forum works in various ways to strengthen the role of youth in Transitional Justice processes and to build barriers against the renewed use of violence in political struggles.

Youth in the SADC region carries the burden of the past, with the region having the background of attaining independence through the liberation struggle and past injustices such as tribal wars, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid as well as new emerging issues such as xenophobia, extremisms, and religious fundamentalism.  As much as a section of young people, not aware of what exactly happened in the past, the trauma is being passed from generation to generation.  The Southern Africa region is considered as the most stable region in Africa. However, this does not make the region immune to challenges to peace and security, armed conflicts, political crisis, unemployment, corruption, climate change, recurring xenophobic attacks, formation of vigilante groups, and governance deficits are some urgent issues contributing to state and human insecurity and young people who constitute a larger percentage are the most affected. The Southern Africa Youth Forum (SAYoF-SADC) views the youth, peace and security agenda as key in the Southern African region in cementing youth empowerment and inclusion, current efforts on regional integration and in realizing the region’s peace agenda.

The youth play a critical role in building, sustaining and promoting peace in societies and their role must be emphasized. The Southern Africa Youth Forum adopted the Youth Development Model which promotes the engagement of Youth as Leaders for Transformation, Stakeholders, Stockholders and as Agents for change at the community, national and regional levels. The Model has Seven Ps that is: Primacy (youth), Participation, Policy and Practice, Partnerships, Prioritization, Possibilities, and Peace.  Acknowledging the critical role of youth in peacebuilding; SAYoF-SADC advocates for the practical inclusion of youth as torchbearers for sustainable peace. The model has seen young people involved in the peace-building initiative as equal stakeholders and bringing to the table solutions. 

The Africa Union Youth for Peace program and Silencing the Guns by 2020 and the African Union Transitional Justice Policy adopted in February 2019 also notes the key role of youth in building Sustainable Peace. The AU Transitional Justice Policy under Article 71 notes the importance of ‘Memorization’ which entails the critical role played by History. The Policy specifically notes that Memorization is key to, ‘revision of history texts and educational curricula. As a long-term inclusive process, it requires a policy foundation ensuring thesustained engagement of a range of actors, targeting the youth in particular. The United Nations in 2015 adopted the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace, and Security, the first resolution fully dedicated to the important and positive role young women and men play in the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security. The resolution in its adoption requested the Secretary-General to carry out a progress study on the youth's positive contribution to peace processes and conflict resolution.

The revision of History Texts as outlined in the African Union Transitional Justice Policy remains critical as this enables national justice, truth-telling and reconciliation among communities. The younger generation often views history or the past as uninteresting and irrelevant; although having dialogues and resolving past conflicts work perfectly towards healing, social cohesion and building sustainable peace in communities.  

Southern Africa Youth Forum (SAYoF-SADC), #SADCYOUTH values Intergenerational Dialogues as a critical component on effecting shifts within mindsets especially when it comes to youth given their ignorance of history.

SAYoF-SADC in its work through a program, “Youth For Peace SADC”, believes that in order to shape the future, the past remains key as unpacking history enables the youth to learn from the past mistakes in order to affect positive change in the future and  avoid repetition of the past wrongs,  this also helps post-conflict societies to reconcile and change their attitudes. Under the program, SAYOF is working across countries with youth actors and connecting them via digital media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube among others. This has aided to the mapping of peace scenarios across member countries, the creation of a concrete youth peace agenda for the region and allowed for instance during the last wave of xenophobic attacks (South Africa), for SAYOF to emerge in the region as an advocate for peace and non-violent action.

Also, under the Youth for Peace SADC program, SAYOF-SADC carries capacity building programs to ensure young people have capacities to be agents for peace or peace ambassadors at a country level and in the region.  During elections time, SAYOF uses social media and online campaigns to reach many stakeholders, this includes the use of live tweet tables, Facebook lives and online petitioning as a means to foster peaceful co-existence in communities. Some of our chapters have utilized the use of signing Peace Pledge by community leaders, leaders of political parties, citizens, and also storytelling through Open Space Technology methodology on how violence affects community and development as means to guarantee peace during and after elections.

SAYoF in its work to cascade the African Union (AU) Transitional Justice Policy  targeting youth in SADC region recommends the use of cultural exchange programs, providing safe space, use of technologies,  storytelling for social change, and enactment of favorable Youth Policies which encompass the importance of history and peace and  to strengthen the understanding of youth development with the aim of building sustainable Peace. As specified in the Youth Development Model, if young people are part of the broader developmental trajectory as solution bearers and stakeholders, the region can build sustainable peace, a panacea for regional integration.


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Ronald T. Magomo is Regional Advocacy and Communications Manager with Southern Africa Youth Forum

Issue: Youth

Those born afterwards bear no direct responsibility. They may choose to ignore history or identify with perpetrators or victims. What can be done to awaken young people’s interest in history and motivate them to engage in building peaceful relations between communities?