‘You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. Besides, it took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. – Thomas Sankara.
By David Chidende
Demographics have shown that Africa’s population is fast growing and relatively young with approximately 200 million people falling in the youth bracket ages of between 15 and 35 years (United Nations Population Fund, 2014). Unfortunately, this age group is the most affected on the continent as it bears the brunt of political, social and economic injustice at the hands of poor governance, corruption, unemployment, HIV/AIDS, autocratic rule, human trafficking, terrorism and countless other ills. Sadly, this generation’s voice, no matter how amplified, has yet to be heard.
The participation of young Africans, especially in the southern region, in the socioeconomic and political development of their countries and the continent, is overshadowed and discarded at large by the prolonged stay in power of liberation movements that have long diverted from the ideals, values and principles of the liberation struggle, to pursue self- aggrandized interest at the expense of the starving masses. Corruption, misappropriation of state funds, violations of constitutional principles, election irregularities, state repression and a lack of service delivery has become the order of the day as the political elites feast on the national cake whilst the poor masses salivates from the sweet smell of it.
Various tools and mechanisms have been used to silence those who dare raise their voices against such injustices and, sadly, youth are caught up in this vicious cycle, as enforcers of the old order. They are victims of a system that deprives them of fundamental rights such as the right to employment in this growling poverty, making them more susceptible to all forms of abuse. Today, Africa is bleeding from terrorism, human-trafficking, civil war and state sponsored violence, all designed to further the interests of failed generations, regimes and systems. In all this, young people are the victims and perpetrators. Their needs are not properly addressed and their welfare and destiny is being decided upon by a chronically corrupt political elite that see in politics its opportunities for power and riches.
How do we redefine and claim leadership?
Africa now needs a new crop of leadership, a leadership that is sensitive and respectful to the people’s needs. In that respect, young people need to take stock of their current leadership, ‘infiltrate’ it and ‘bulldoze’ their way to leadership positions. History has taught us that across Africa, decision making of all sorts is the preserve of the ‘elders’ and any attempt by the young ones to be involved are considered acts of disobedience. A mentality which pervades most political parties and organisations in Africa where young people look to the elders, to older generations for guidance, even in matters involving their own futures. Young people in Africa still fall victim to the old cliché youth are the leaders of tomorrow. But the question is, where is tomorrow when our economies are comatose, when democracy is on a downward trend and poverty is our last name?
Tomorrow Is Now
Young people should join efforts and fight the colonial legacy of violence which is perennial in African politics, a tool that has been continuously used by the different regimes and political establishments to incapacitate and hinder change. In the same spirit, there is need to revive political consciousness in youth. Young people must be made aware of the problems confronting them and the cause of those problems. Information and Communication Technologies ,especially new media, should be used to widen their democratic space and promote fundamental freedoms which undemocratic governments always deny their citizens. Through new media, youth can voice their opinions on issues that are important to them , to defend and safeguard their rights, have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives as they thrive on mobilizing and coordinating their efforts towards a brighter today.
Today’s generation should wake up to the call that no freedom from any form of bondage comes easily; it has to be fought for. And it is high time that young people in Africa came to the realization that they have a common problem and enemy at the sometime, i.e. an old and self-destructing league of politicians who do not want to adapt to new changes and still think that it is entitled to rule Africa forever. It is time for young people to redefine and claim leadership.