Why the International Youth Day 2017 theme is especially important for Zimbabwe

12 August is International Youth Day, an annual commemoration since  resolution 54/120, when the General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth for it to be a day set aside for such.

Youths burn material at Budiriro shrine in solidarity with people attacked by Mapostori – Photo Aaron Ufumeli/NewsDay Zimbabwe

This year it runs under the theme Youth Building Peace from the recognition and reaffirmation that they are critical actors in ‘conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace’.

In Zimbabwe this is becoming more so especially in the political space where they are often used to enforce political positions whether within parties or outside of them.

As recently as this past week we saw youths from the MDC-Alliance attack members of that party’s hierarchy. While the president of the Alliance MDC-T’s Morgan Tsvangirai has said he will act on this it showed how young people have become instruments for executing the duties of the powerful.

Even within factionalism inside the halls of the ruling party, caustic environments have been created.

On top of that, add the personal actions of violence, often leading to death all over the country. While we are not at South Africa levels, one need only read The Chronicle to see how many fatal acts are taking place.

At music shows, when there is a misunderstanding, the default to violence instead of conflict resolution is unnerving.

And all of this comes down to how malleable the consciences of the youth are. Add to that, the fact that some have now taken up positions of division with pride.

Even beyond politics, a lot of emphasis has been placed on how different we are from each other and not so much what binds us together to the extent that if you ask a young person what they believe Zimbabwe to be, they are unlikely to be able to articulate it.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development committed to fostering peaceful and inclusive societies and affirmed that “[s]ustainable development cannot be realized without peace and security”. Goal 16 aims to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.

And that is why we fail to develop in a lot of things because division is sowed more than unity.

That is often because when we talk peace, it is often the preserve of the elders. The youths are excluded from the conversations and told that it is not their place to chart the way forward but to simply follow the path set by those who serve in positions of seniority.

And without the inclusion of the critical part, the majority in peace building in Zimbabwe, you risk creating a generation that knows nothing else but conflict.

And when it leads, there will be blood.