A youth peace rally is planned in Jos for Thursday, 1 July 2o1o, 10am. The rally will be held in the Jos Rwang Pam Stadium along Tafawa Balewa road. The rally anticipates between 20,000 and 40,000 participants.
The organizers of the event, an NGO the Young Ambassadors for Community Peace and Interfaith Foundation, which includes a nearly equal representation of Christians and Muslims, has planned eight other events in Plateau State in the past few months. According to Yakubu Pam, the executive director of the foundation, whom I spoke to on the phone, the first event was was held at Kwarafa Cinema, Jos, and had several thousands in attendance, the second was in Bukuru and again had over a thousand in attendence. The rest, held in smaller communities, were as follows:
3. Dadin Kowa, over three hundred participants,
4. Rayfield, over three hundred participants
5. Tudan Wada Stadium, over two hundred participants
6. Nassarawa Gwang, over two hundred participants,
7. Riyom LGA, over one thousand participants,
8. Nepa (sp?) community in Jos, over one hundred participants.
The rally planned for Thursday is a private initiative and is not sponsored by the Plateau State Government. It hopes to bring together young people from Plateau State and surrounding states to make a commitment for peace.
The Daily Independent, in it’s coverage of the Bukuru event on 1 April 2010, quotes Yakubu Pam on his vision for grassroots level youth talks:
“When I look at other peace conferences that had taken place in Jos and other places in respect of this Jos crisis and discovered that only select group of people were called to come and discuss in the peace talks, yet nothing happens at the grassroots because they were not made to be part of the peace process and that is why my foundation target audience is the grassroots,” Pam stressed.
Pam said the youths were the active participants in the recurring crisis in Jos and other parts of the state and must be taken into consideration by the government in its quest to seek for lasting peace in the state.
He pointed out that his foundation has engaged youths, which cuts across Christians and Muslims in the state and the result of this, he said, was the bringing them together to discuss and chart a new course towards getting out of the recent crisis that rocked Jos and Bukuru metropolis and the councils in Northern part of the state.
“Due to our contacts with these youths before now, we were able to have acted swiftly last week Wednesday to avert another crisis that was looming at Bukuru community in Jos South. We called on the warring Gyel youths and Hausas to lay down their arms and return to their respective homes without hurting each other. We know them and they give us their listening ears,” he said.
Pam challenged Plateau State government and the Presidency to change their approach towards finding lasting peace in the state from selecting only few privileged ones on the Plateau to be engaged in peace talks on behalf on the people; rather the youths should be engaged directly so that government could know what are their problems and find a way of solving them to put an end to youth restiveness in the state.
My father, Professor Danny McCain, who was a participant at the 1 April Bukuru event, described in his journal (I’ve quoted with his permission) how the 1 April community event in Bukuru was called following an averted crisis the week before. Apparently, as Pam described above, Christian and Muslim youth leaders had been able to disperse angry mobs of youth who were about to start fighting. My father writes:
Pam [...] explained that the organization was providing special recognition for the two people who had helped to avert that serious crisis. He then pulled out our certificates and called Magaji Sule, the Muslim youth leader forward. Later, Ishaya Bot, the Christian leader came forward. The chairman presented the certificates to them with a strong exhortation to be peace makers. He then had them raise their right hands and repeat after him phrase by phrase a spontaneous pledge that went something like this: “As a leader of the youth, I commit myself to be a peace maker. I will not allow the peace to be broken again. When I learn of trouble, I will go there and intervene. I will encourage others to be peace makers until peace is restored to Plateau. So help me God.” [...] One of the most moving moments of the whole event was when these two youth leaders came together and embraced each other enthusiastically, with big smiles on their faces. What a powerful statement that made to their followers! Both were very happy—genuinely happy for the recognition and for the hope of peace. The crowd was happy as well. Before they had hardly received the certificates, people were already shouting, “Take care. You need to get those laminated.”
Here are a few articles about the other events planned by the Young Ambassadors for Community Peace and Interfaith Foundation
“Dialogue with Plateau Youths, CAN advises Govt” from the Daily Independent, 13 April 2010
“Fulani, Berom Leaders Resolve to Embrace Peace” from the Vanguard, 2 June 2010
“Tension Brews in Jos” from the Daily Champion, 6 June 2010
The website for the organization is still under construction, but you can view what there is of it here.