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UEC-UNESCO launch project to empower Youth in Northern Uganda as Agents of Peace and Development

Wednesday, 20th September 2017

Uganda National Commission for UNESCO (UNATCOM) in partnership with Uganda Episcopal Conference has spearheaded peace building in the Northern region of the country through youth empowerment.

The region is renowned for over 25 years of insurgency, i.e. longest running in Africa, by the Lord's Resistance Army under the command of Joseph Kony.

"We use the word 'building', because building takes time. It is like planting the seed for peace. We can harvest the fruits later" said Fr. Lawrence Komakec, Episcopal Vicar, Gulu Archdiocese.

According to Rev. Komakec, education is the right way of planting the seeds of peace, hence the decision to use schools in the districts of Amuru and Lamwo to implement the project. Schools are where the younger generation, who are the seedlings of peace, is growing.

These two districts have been hampered by cases of gender based violence, land conflicts, child marriages and gender divisions among others, which are considered recipes for conflicts.

"The youth in the Northern region were born during the insurgency and some have lived through it. Talking of peace is an alien language. They look at violence as a way of life." Said Mr. Marcellino Okullo, Chairperson Education Commission, Gulu ArchDiocese.

Okullo noted that a good number of these youth actually idolize Kony and hence see no value for work.

Ms Rosie Agoi, the Secretary General UNATCOM urged the church leaders to be considerate of the time factor, in ensuring that this project is a turning point in popularizing peace within the region.

"When there is peace, there is development, and where there is development, there is happiness" reiterated Ms Rosie.

However, for peace to be built there must be a few people who are willing to carry the torch and pay the price. With challenges such as majority of the youth being out school, uncommitted teachers and a negative mindset, there must be lead instruments of change.

For a bleeding generation, the youth in Northern Uganda have to be encouraged to embrace the virtue of forgiveness in order for peace to prevail. This forecasts the need to preach the gospel of rejection of violence and prevention of conflicts.

"We can't ignore the fact that the young women and men are the ones moving things. We need the right climate and environment to make them productive." Said Dr Dominic Lali Mundrugo-Ogo, Program Officer,Social and Human sciences program UNATCOM.

Dr Dominic further noted that this initiative is one of the ways of leveraging on the high youth population (over 80 percent of the total population in the country) and channeling their energy in the right direction.

It is estimated that the LRA abducted around 30,000 children and that the civil war led to the displacement of 1.6million people from Northern Uganda and the death, mutilation and kidnapping of more than 100,000 people.

The project that will target 20,000 people, inclusive of 40 administrative units is aimed at empowering the youth, such that they can be assured of peace, and hopefully that peace can spread across the ArchDiocese, entire country and neighboring states.

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