This past week, I attended a youth conference in Gaborone, Botswana, in which we discussed how to slay the dragon that corruption has become to Africa. Young leaders from East and Southern African nations were here at the call of African Governance Architecture (AGA), under the political affairs department of the African Union.
The theme of the meeting was ‘Leveraging Youth Capacities for the Fight Against Corruption in Africa’.
It was a conference full of energy, not pointing fingers at the governments and what they have failed to do but on what both organizations and individuals are doing to make things better.
It was such an eye-opening experience to know what young leaders like Faith Pienaar from South Africa and South Sudan’s Alimure Ali Awuda are doing to bring people together and fight for prosperity. Many people had amazing experiences to share.
I was wowed by the three-strong delegation from South Sudan, which included a medical doctor — a young woman who sits in the committee charged with bringing lasting peace to her country as a youth delegate.
Sometimes the talk is so much about the ‘big men’ on top of the political ladder, forgetting the ‘small guys’ running on fumes to unite local communities that have turned against one another from the government and rebel sides.
When peace is finally realised in South Sudan, young people like Awuda will be in that history.
Faith Pienaar’s Integrity Idol Initiative, a civil society-driven campaign, generates debate around integrity. They build a network of honest government officials who then advocate positive change and inspire a new generation of effective public servants.
In the host country, the anti-corruption crusade is aided by public education, prevention and investigating anyone thought to be living beyond their means. Every government ministry has an anti-corruption unit, led by a coordinator, monitoring the ministry’s transactions.
Delegates from countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Swaziland and Lesotho narrated their struggles to save their people from the effects of corruption.
A common thread among many people was that it has always been a struggle and people who engage in the war against corruption must be prepared to suffer the consequences. Some people were arrested, beaten and ridiculed but they kept at it.
My take-away points from the meeting: We have to be organized to give it a say; know how systems should work; know how to use the law to protect ourselves; and share the responsibilities among our organizations to divide the risks.
Lastly, young people have to read, read and read. Read the Constitution, laws and amendments and know what lawmakers are up to. You can’t demand what you don’t know!
Author: Thuku Kariuki writes from Nairobi, Kenya.