Sulayman Joof’s solidarity speech.
Friday, June 22, 2012
One key factor in democratic politics is that citizens become accustomed to participating in political processes through political institutions, civil society organisations, political parties, the act of voting, expression of opinion between and during elections, making regular contact with elected representatives, etc. Unless citizens, especially young people, have faith in democratic institutions and unless they engage in large numbers with the various processes of governance, democracy might end up being no more than an empty shell, devoid of substance.
The vast majority of Africa’s population is under the age of 30. Young people are accordingly the largest interest group in society. Thus, they should be considered major stakeholders in elections.
Prior to the emergence of multiparty democracy in the sub region, the nationalist/democratic movements fighting for the liberation of citizens relied on the mobilisation of young people as a vital source of resistance against colonial or white minority regimes. Young people were used as the foot soldiers of the liberation forces and accorded a great degree of opportunity for participation in the periods leading to political liberalisation in the region.
“How can young people make meaningful contributions to community life through their enhanced participation in politics?”
In an attempt to address these issues, we need to develop and implement a project which shall aim at encouraging youth participation in political processes. The workshops should be used as a platform to promote youth participation in the electoral process as well as interrogating the youth policies contained in political parties programmes and manifestos. Through this exercise we should hope to stimulate youth interest and participation in the electoral process but also, in the long run, in broader issues of governance.