“Where there is peace, everybody wins” – Fanta K. Traore
“An be gnokon bolo” - Young people unite for a stable Mali
In Sikasso, a region bordering Cote d’Ivoire in southern Mali, local conflicts are frequent within and among communities. Fakola is a suburb (Commune) located less than 60 kilometres from the border it shares with its neighbour, and Fakola fell victim to external aggression in 2015. It is one of the three districts selected in the region in July 2020 to engagement with some 136 young people to promote social cohesion. Fanta K Traore is a member of the group aged 13 to 17. Together with those aged 18 to 35, the 136 male and female adolescents and young people in Fakola constitute the first line of beneficiaries of the Peace Building Fund (PBF). They are to champion social cohesion among their peers and community members for peaceful co-existence.
The Head of Department for Youth affairs in Sikasso region is Attaher Sofiane and he is coordinating this joint UN programme in three localities. “We have adopted the principle of putting the youth at the centre of this project because it is theirs, it is for them” he insists. In line with the slogan for the PBF “We are together” he has been working together with all the stakeholders, from the region all the way down the district to make sure everyone is adequately informed and involved. “From the word go, our meetings have included the government departments - Reconciliation and solidarity, Promotion of women, children and Family, Education, as well as the partner NGO Search for Common Ground (SFCG) that will be training the beneficiaries.
At the decentralized level, the meetings like this one in Fakola District also follow the same pattern of keeping everybody in the community informed and engaged. Here, the community has set up a working group made up of the administrative and political authorities, the village Chief and his Advisors as well as representatives of the youth. The young people have both their male and female representatives on the committee. The meetings, chaired by the Mayor of Fakola or his Deputy, are opportunities for intergenerational dialogues. For now, the meeting take place on the premises of the Mayor’s office.
After a series of consultations, the local authorities of Fakola and the youth delegates agreed on “manager” for the programme. Mamadou Konate who already serves as Administrative Secretary of Community Youth Council was chosen to liaise between the youth and the authorities and to oversee the implementation of the programme in Fakola. One of his very first tasks was to gather all the young people in this community for them to identify a place for regular meetings and other activities “Until now, we can only meet in people’s compounds, and this has to be in small groups, so not everybody can participate or even receive information first hand” explains Mamadou Konate.
The young people settled on this structure to be used for their meeting and activities. It is an old building that was put up by the state. It served as the community youth house many years ago, but it has not been used for the last decade or so, and it is in a state of disrepair. The building is located right next to the Fakola market, but that does not constitute a source of concern for the village chief. “We respect the choice made by the young people. The market days are here Mondays, so we have to make sure that the youth activities take place on other days, like Sundays for example” explains Daouda Souri Doumbia, the village Chief.
“We are learning from this project that our decisions must be based consultations with our members, but also that we must evaluate to check what is possible to do and how much it will cost” says Mamadou, as he confers with his committee members. The young people received a set of criteria from the Department of youth affairs, and they used it to select the building and to assess its current state. “We took the report of the evaluation to the authorities, and we are ready to mobilise the young people in this village, to provide manpower for the repairs”.
“We chose this old building because of two main reasons: it is in the centre of the village, so everybody can reach it easily from anywhere in this community” says Mamadou Y Konate. What is more, it is the biggest shelter in the whole village, so can meet everyone at the same time here.”
The young committee members are all eager to see the repairs begin on this building. Sidiki Traore informs us that “We are waiting for the NGO to start training us in the conflict prevention for us begin the sensitization work with the others. After that we young people can organize our events, ceremonies and cultural shows here”. Part of the UN Peace Building Fund has been allocated for the rehabilitation and equipment of the structure to be used as the community Youth Centre - When habilitated, it will serve as a meeting place for the entire community, and not just the youth.
The strife between and among the communities are often triggered around resources – who has the authority to grant access, and who controls them. “But it the young people themselves who fuel the flames” says Karim Kone the Deputy Mayor of Fakola. “We don’t have a radio station in this village, so are grateful to this programme which offering us a place where we can all we meet and talk and ask questions. Everyone will get the information at the same time… We must all have the same understanding at every stage … understand why it is necessary to support and help each other to protect and manage the resources we have for everyone’s benefit.” concludes the Deputy Mayor.
The young people of Fakola know they have a role to play in the development of their community. Fanta suggests however that “the best ideas should to come from the older people here … to help us young people to contribute to the development that we all want to see in one year, or even in five years from now. If they show understanding for each other and live peacefully, they can be the example for us to follow.” “Where there is peace, everybody wins,” concludes Fanta K Traore.