Youth Action for Peace (YAP) Programm

We recognise that Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world. With this program, we
grow the next generation of women and men peacebuilders with its three components: with the Kids for Peace (KIPs) component, we introduce young people in primary schools to peace education; the Young Women’s Peace Academy (YOPA) enables us develop the next generation of women
peacebuilders, as mediators and peace keepers; and, the Youth in Electoral Processes (YEP) targets youth to promote peaceful elections as candidates, voters and election observes & monitors.

We are mindful of the fact that the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security,
passed in December 2015, recognizes the potential and positive contributions of youth to peace and
security and provides the overall framework for young people to participate in decision making including
in peace building. We identify, interest and train youth in leadership, political participation, conflict
prevention including conflict early warning and early reporting, peaceful means of resolving conflicts,
and mediation to enhance their meaningful participation and contribution to nation building.

Youths as a conceptual category are frequently ‘misinterpreted’ in the discourse on conflict. They are
seen as potentially dangerous ‘subjects’ and policy approaches often regard them as ‘a problem’. Often,
male youths in the age group 16-30 have been observed as the main protagonists of criminal and
political violence. Whereas the positioning of youth in society has a bearing on their leadership potential
and their possible role in peacebuilding, there have not been deliberate efforts for youth inclusion in
peacebuilding efforts. The tension between young and old has been one of the key features of inter-
generational shifts pertaining to the control over power, resources and people. Failure to recognize
youths as peace builders, political actors and decision makers, implies exclusion leading to violent
extremism. What is in blue should be hyperlinks to take us to pages with details of each
programme.

UPDATES

CoACT sets up the first ever Youth Elections Observatory in Uganda @YouthObservers

The official opening of the Youth Elections Observatory (@YouthObservers) was held on 8th January 2021 at the Olive Garden Suites in Bugolobi, Kampala. The Youth Elections Observatory is an early warning and rapid response mechanism against violence arising before, during and after elections. It is a replica of the Women’s Situation Room for peaceful elections, except that the Observatory Centre is hosted and managed by young women and young men. runs

The Coalition for Action on 1325 (CoACT) trained a number of young people through a series of workshops over 6 months. They youth decided they would monitor the general elections of 2021 to counter violence. CoACT is the host of the Elections Observatory Centre which is managed by youth would increase the constructive participation of young men and young women in electoral processes. Robinah Rubimbwa, the initiator of the Youth Elections Observatory Centre had this to say:

Violence during an election cycle is an all-too-frequent phenomenon in most African countries where it may be triggered by political or flawed electoral processes, and sadly, pretty often young people are at the centre of the violence. Tragically, many of those in violent protests have lost their lives, some have been maimed for life, and others languish in prisons. In most cases, women and girls are most affected by such violence. Some lose their sons and daughters, some lose husbands, some lose their means of livelihoods, some are sexually violated, and some get killed.  While governments grapple with the problem, women and youth in Uganda have created a new mechanism to help reduce violence during elections – the Youth Elections Observatory.

The Youth Elections Observatory, like the Women’s Situation Room (WSR) that African women have used since 2011, is a peace-building process that empowers the youth to be the leading force for democratic and peaceful elections. The initiative is founded on the WSR concept first introduced by Yvette Chesson-Wureh, the Executive Director of the Liberia-based Angie Brooks International Centre, an NGO on women’s empowerment. The Youth Elections Observatory is a real-time and progressive process that works with communities in advocating, mediating, and intervening in violent and tense situations before, during and after elections.

Following the success of the WSR in Uganda in 2016, the replication of the concept to directly give the youth the responsibility for conflict early warning, analysis, and early response is ground-breaking in preventing and mitigating election-related violence in Uganda, a country with one of the youngest populations in the world, where 75 per cent of the population is below the age of 35. Liberia.  “We are looking to see what lessons we learn from this first experience so we can refine the concept for the future. I believe many countries will adopt the use of the Youth Elections Observatory as an effective mechanism for preventing and mitigating election-related violence and a best practice for increasing youth participation and leadership in electoral processes in future, says Robinah Rubimbwa, the initiator of the Youth Elections Observatory, and Executive Director of the Coalition for Action on 1325 (CoACT), the Host of the first ever such Elections Observatory.

The Elections Observatory at Work 

Since the advent of multi-party politics in Uganda 2011, violence has marred Ugandan every general election including by elections. The 2016 post-election violence was the worst the country had ever seen. Many Ugandans live with the vision of images of young men and sometimes young women in violent running battles with armed police and the military on the streets of Kampala and other towns in the country. It has never been established how many people lost their lives, including a baby in Masaka, whom a bullet killed while she lay asleep on the floor of her parents rented room. Many young people were arrested. The post-election violence of the 2011 elections prompted women peacebuilders to implement the Women’s Situation Room (WSR) as an effective tool in preventing and minimising electoral violence. While the effort of the WSR is commendable, it only involves women (senior and young) and yet young men are at the centre of much of the violence every  election. CoACT, therefore sought to design a mechanism that would involve young people- male and female – in preventing violence before, during and after elections. This mechanism empowers young men and young women to be leaders in preventing violence, in providing real time solutions, and in mobilizing other young men, wherever they are located in the country  to keep peace.

With financial support from the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)  the Youth Election Observatory was born in Uganda and Africa. The structure of the Observatory is simple. It consists of a secretariat (CoACT Offices), very well-trained young election observers (aged 19-29), a Physical Observatory Centre, with tollfree telephone, a team of influencers and leaders below 45, two analysts, Police Officers, Electoral Commission officials, and a team of experts.

Operating from the CoACT offices in Kampala, the secretariat organized the day-to-day activities of the Youth Elections Observatory rolled out strategic actions that were implemented before, during and after the 2013 elections. The Physical location that we called the Elections Observatory Centre was at Olive Garden Hotel, in Bugolobi Kampala. The Secretariat recruited and trained 30 youth  as special election observers and deployed them to areas that were identified as potential hotspots for violence, which included Kampala, Kasese, Ntungamo and Kabarole. Using a toll-free, well-publicized telephone number, the election Youth Observers reported to the Observatory Centre all incidents of violence or threats to peace that were happening across regions. Citizens from across the country also used the well-publicized Tollfree line to call the centre and report violence and threats to peace.

In the Elections Observatory Centre, a team of young Ugandan leaders and influencers sat in one corner, two police officers sat in another corner, one Electoral Commission sat in another corner, and the young telephone operators took calls. The telephone operators recorded the time of the call, the location of the threat and its nature, and then passed on the information to analysts.  The two analysts verified and analysed the information before passing it on either to the Police desk, the Electoral Commission desk  or the special young leaders who had influence with local politicians. The influencers were Rev Dr Emmanuel Mwesigwa, the Chaplain of Kakumba Chapel at Kyambogo University, and Ms Solomey Awidi, a distinguished human rights lawyer working with the Refugee Law Project.

After receiving reports of real or potential trouble on the ground, the police desk would immediately call the District Police Commander (DPC) of the district where the report came from to take immediate action. The Police Officers at the Observatory Centre called the DPCs on behalf of the Inspector General of Police who assigned them to the Elections Observatory Centre. If the threat required the attention of the Electoral Commission, the analysts passed on the report to the Electoral Commission officials in the room who immediately would call the Elections Registrar in the respective district for immediate response. In all cases, the police and the Electoral Commission official on the ground provided real time response to diffuse brewing tensions or acts of violence on the ground preventing them from escalation. The young leaders conducted behind-the-scenes diplomacy, arbitrated, and mediated between rival groups and political parties, and in some cases, provided counselling to angry protagonists.

Real-time solutions

At the end of the observation process, the Youth Elections Observatory had recorded more than 105 reports that were received and resolved in real time in regard to the Presidential and Parliamentary elections– the day before elections, the election day itself and the day after elections. The incidence categories included gender-based violence, obstruction of observers and agents, election materials arriving late, wrong name spelling on voter location slips, inconsistencies in the voter register, Biometric machines not functional, complaints over failure to observe COVID 19 SOPs, voter bribery including on voting day, Campaigns outside gazetted hours, low voter knowledge of voting procedures, intimidation by the heavy military presence, and voting exercise starting late. There were also cases of spontaneous violence following the announcement of results in two of the districts  Observed.

Lessons learned.

According to Ms. Robena Rubimbwa, the Youth Elections Observatory succeeded in training and deploying Youth Observers, accredited by the Uganda’s Electoral Commission, to observe elections in violence hotspots. They resolved electoral violence incidents or threats in real time and held fruitful meetings with the major political players at district level on the need for peaceful electioneering.

Ms Rubimbwa concedes that there was need for more time to train more Youth to observe elections and deploy them it at least one third of the districts in the country. It a small but effective effort and we have learnt from it for the next round of general elections. She says. It would have been more effective to open the centre one month before elections and to keep it open another month after elections. The Toll-Free line has now been relocated to CoACT offices, the secretariat of the Youth Elections Observatory. The Call centre will be maintained so that citizens can call in to report incidents of violence at community level, including other human rights violations including violence against women and girls. Recalling that many youths tend to be looked at as perpetrators of election related violence, CoACT Executive Director and the initiator of the Youth Elections Observatory Centre, Robinah Rubimbwa,  welcomed the opportunity for Ugandan youth to demonstrate that they are not just a disgruntled, violent prone group, but that they can be active stakeholders in ensuring that peace prevails in their country.

The accreditation of each participating youth by the Electoral commission and the partnership with Uganda Police increases the legitimacy of youth participation in election observation processes. It also gives the participating youth confidence in themselves and enables their engagement with top level leaders at the district and national levels. It is important to have election monitoring tools (the process tool and Election Day tool) to guide the field level Youth Observers in identifying early warning indicators of election related Violence and how to report them. The virtual support provided through telephone coaching calls by experts at the Physical Elections Observatory was a big confidence boost. The Young Influencers at the Youth Elections Observatory Centre enriched the learning of the youth at the Call Centre. Because the elections were held during the COVID pandemic when the country had to observes COVID SOPs  plus a curfew, it provided time in the evening reflection time for the young call takers to interact with the Influencers, the Police and the Electoral Commission officials.

Members of the Youth Elections Observatory after the official launch of the Elections Observatory on January 8th, 2021. The launch was televised live and livestreamed on YouTube. 

Panellists from left to right – Gerald Barekye (student at Makerere University), Solomey Awidi (Human Rights Lawyer) Crispy Kaheru, (Independent Elections Observer), Gorett Komurembe,(Director of Programmes at CoACT) and Mable Twegumye Zaake Moderator from NBS television

Beyond the observers, any citizen is encouraged to call the hotline at 0800 111417  to report any incidents likely to lead to conflict. Serious incidents will be verified and passed on to the Uganda Police Force or the Electoral Commission.

ICAN is providing financial support to the Youth Elections Observatory as part of the Innovative Peace Fund (IPF) contributed to by the  Governments of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Canada 

Young Influencers :

                                       

                                Rev Mwesigwa                               Ms Solomey Awidi

Some of the Youth Observers  from left to right- Ivan Mwebembezi (Kabarole), Nicholas Barekye (Kampala)  Gerald Barekye (Ntungamo), Shadrack Enzama (Kampala), Allex Baruku, (Kasese), Ivan Madanda (Kampala). 

 Front row: Grace Nyakaisiki left front rowKampala, Agnes Ninsiima , Ntungamo

Gerald Barekye, National Coordinator of the Youth Ambassadors Network that CoACT helped establish, during the panel

Youth Elections Observatory Gallery

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