Youth unemployment as a catalyst that drives conflict in West Africa

Youth unemployment as a catalyst that drives conflict in West Africa

An Idle man is the Devil’s WorkshopProverbs 16:27 (king james version)

What is conflict?
Conflict simply put is a clash of interest. Conflict is a disagreement between two or more separate groups or individuals. These clashes of interest or disagreement may arise also out of divergent political views, divergent economic views, divergent social views, divergent ethnocentricviews or difference in religious views. Although some experts are of the opinion that greed is the major cause of conflict as it is what drives people to war rather than grievance. The greed for economic resources cum political advantage or dominance leads to a full-blown arm conflict when not resolved early.

Human relation experts has also claimed that in human relationship, there must always be clash of interest, disagreements, squabbles, quarrels, fights etc. which can either be over who controls or has the lion share in the limited available recourses or clash of political interest or clash of religious, ethnic or social interest. In the words of John Wesley, ‘we (humans) may disagree to agree’, hence, conflict is inevitable in the society be it advanced or less advanced society, developed or undeveloped but these conflicts can always be averted if different parties agree to come to the round table and resolve the differences as ‘all war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal’ according to John Steinbeck 

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Having established what conflict is which is obviously an inevitable part of the society and human relationship, in its attempt to define, I delved into what causes it or what can lead to clash of interest between individuals. I highlighted earlier to be economic reasons, political reasons, religious reasons, ethnocentric reasons and social reasons. I will be dwelling mostly on the economic and political reasons of clash of interest as causes conflict since the focus in this essay is ‘the impact of youth employment on conflict in ECOWAS states. Making sense out of topic, I will rephrase to be ‘the implication of youths unemployment in west Africa’.

For the sake of emphasis, West African countries includes 16 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo (United Nations Statistics Division, 2012).

We would all agree to the fact that the major reason for conflict is unemployment. As we quoted the bible earlier that an idle man is the devils workshop, meaning that a jobless and unemployed youth can always be used as a tool by mischief makers to carry out social vices and cause conflict.  A busy and gainfully employed youth won’t have the time to engage and participate in conflicts as he will be busy with his work, too busy to engage or to get incited easily to engage in conflicts but the jobless and unemployed youths are easily exploited by either the corrupt political elite, the fanatical religious leaders or external political personas who want cause conflict and hit up the polity for their selfish interests and they are always available to get engaged with whatsoever thing whether good or bad. Unemployed young people, mostly male, who receive their income from informal economic actions and are prone to crime and violence, so also unemployed youths who don’t have a job whether formal or informal job they receive incomes from.

Mischief makers, corrupt political elites and corrupt influential individuals in the society has exploited and are still exploiting the desperation of the youths to make a living in so many ways by engaging them in social vices for their selfish interest instead of creating a well meaning jobs for them. 

It is at this juncture that I will say that high rate of unemployment equals to high rate of conflict’.

The countries with less jobs and high poverty rate are prone to constant conflicts as against countries that there are jobs for the youths and the youths are gainfully employed. For instance, in a country like Serra Leone where conflict have been ravaging for long, the world bank statistics shows that as of 2014 only 46% of the citizens of the country are employed and have one thing or the other to keep themselves busy, engaging in formal (white collar jobs) and informal jobs to make ends meet. This is to say that about 54% of the citizens of Serra Leone were unemployed (mostly the youths) and that rate of unemployment keeps being on the surge in the country, little wonder why the youths are quick to take up arms and go into war over a mere difference or disagreements that could be settled without resorting to violence. 

Also, in Nigeria which crown herself as the giant of Africa, statics also indicate that the unemployment rate is high in the Northern part of the country thereby creating huge poverty rate of about 67% (according to the world bank statistics). You don’t need a seer to tell you that there will be constant conflict in that region which has led to proliferation and uprising of different terrorist groups and banditry in that part of Nigeria. The infamous Boko haram which has turned a world a world class terrorist group started and brewed in that part of the country and their cohort called ‘the herdmen’ which are also turning into a night mare in Nigeria and other neighboring African countries.

Unemployment and conflict goes hand in hand. A jobless man will be easier to incite and excite to pick up arms and go to war than a gainfully employed man who makes ends meet. Therefore, when there’s jobs to engage the youth the rate of conflict will reduce drastically. When youths are gainfully employed and are into various activities, they won’t have the time and will be too busy to engage in conflicts hence the need for creation of more jobs for youths in individual Ecowas state as this has proven to be a catalyst that takes away conflicts, builds peace and utilize the youths’ energy, potentials, talents for better things other than conflicts. 

I will not fail to pass huge bulk of the blame to the political, religious and social elites and other respected and influential members of the society who are also stakeholders in the society. The African leader rule Africa states like their properties which made Williams Paul D to write, Siaka Stevens and his successor Joseph Momoh ruled Sierra Leone like their personal fiefdom from 1968 until a military coup in 1992’ These leaders would instead to create jobs and build up a system that accommodates and assimilate the youths to shine would rather buy arms and share to the youths prepping them for violence and social vices. It is no longer a rumor that arms are being shared to youths like peanuts by corrupt politicians during election period and incite them to use the arms to harass, intimidate, injure and even kill their political opponentsexciting and motivating them with tips and little amount of money. An illiterate and unemployed youth who has seen what he can do using guns and other arms will need therapy sessions and rehabilitation to make him to drop the arms. So this arms shared by the politicians end up being a tool the youths use for conflicts and cause social unrest even after election periods. 

For there to be peace, the leaders of the societies must create jobs which will accommodate the youths and get the youths busy, too busy to be incited for conflicts as high rate of unemployment equals high rate of conflicts.

The youths are leader of today and the leaders of tomorrow and are the pillars of the society and for any country to move forward the youths must be engaged and their potentials harnessed for good. These potentials can only be harnessed when they are gainfully employed hence keeping busy, utilizing their God given talents and energy, contributing to their quotas to the development of the society thereby staying away from conflicts. 

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