For over a month now, there have been reports of youth violence across Sierra Leone leading to the brutal killing of people. At times these brutal killings are as a result of fighting over nothing- football argument and political argument.
The young people in the country have organized themselves into cliques which have been exploited by the politicians.
As a country emerging from a brutal war and very recently from a devastating disease, it is crucial that we look at the root causes of this clique mentality among our young people with the view of coming up with possible solutions.
Sierra Leone ended a devastating civil war in 2002 when most of the young people now were children who have graduated into adulthood. Most of our children suffered hugely during the 10 years civil war.
Some of them were forcefully conscripted into the forces and then became child soldiers, others were orphaned and others became street children.
After the war, we failed as a nation to ensure that our children who are now the young people went through some form of psychological treatment of post traumatic stress disorder to ensure that they are relieved from that condition.
FAILURE OF THE COMMUNITY
In Africa we have a communal life style where in everybody is related to each other even if they do not come from the same family.
This situation did not only occur in the provinces but it occurred in the capital cities.
It is normally the responsibility of people in the community to discipline children when they go wrong and to ensure that they become productive people in the future.
Even religious leaders; the pastors and the imams will be called to counsel the children and advise them on some of the things that that they are doing that are wrong.
As a nation we have failed to uphold the value of disciplining our children just because everyone wants to live a secluded life.
Another factor that has contributed immensely to the gang culture and clique mentality is the huge youth unemployment. In Sierra Leone we have different sects of young people- Educated, Skilled and Unskilled young people.
Even those who have gone through the crucibles of education are finding it very difficult to get jobs in the country. This is as a result of many reasons such as political patronage for jobs leading to discouragement of qualified people.
Sometimes people even attach political party cards and recommendations to application letters so that they would be considered as against those who are fit and proper.
Another reason is the fact that the Government is the biggest employer because of the weak private sector we have in the country. We have even failed in the educational sector as most of the courses are not in line with the current trends of development.
For the skilled workers that should be able to live from the middle income of the country, they don’t have enough work to do so that they will be able to make ends meet.
For the unskilled workers both past and present government have not been able to come up with meaningful policies that will get them engaged rather they have been coming up with knee jerk policies such as cash for work and cleaning of the streets and gutters for pittance.
LACK OF PROPER POLICIES
It seems as if the government is bereft of ideas that they should use to tackle the problems of youth unemployment. The last time they came up with the local content policies, it has only been useful in the shelves gathering dust.
By looking at the shops of foreign nationals, one will notice that even shop attendants are immigrants from India and Labanon while the Sierra Leoneans are mere laborers.
Until the government begin to think out of the box, the young people in the country will continue to be disengaged and disgruntled, thereby causing serious problems in the country.
USING THE GALLOWS
It was a surprise to some of us that the Minister of Internal Affairs , Alfred Palo Coneth believed that the only way to tackle gang culture and clique mentality is by hanging people from the gallows.
This depicts that the present government does not have any meaningful way to tackle ‘gangsterism’ in the country.
The state should not be as cruel as the individual and that is the reason the world is even transforming prisons into correctional centers in order to reform even hard core criminals.
In Sierra Leone we all know how politicians had abused the death penalty in the past to ensure that innocent citizens that are critical of the regime are killed.
Thus we should remove death penalty from the law books and ensure that people who kill others are given long term sentences.
The constitution of Sierra Leone makes the President a supreme leader where he can do anything without anyone asking questions. We have seen hardcore criminals who had been given long jail term sentences in the country receive presidential pardon especially when elections are in the offing.
These criminals are not only pardoned but they are exalted as senior security officers to people in very high offices. Thus we should ensure that the use of presidential pardon is judiciously used rather than being utilized for political purposes. Until we begin to think of ways of engaging the young people meaningfully we will continue to experience gang culture and clique mentality. [By Thomas Dixon]