After 10 years of socio-political crises that led to an increase in youth unemployment, Côte d'Ivoire youth engaged in April 2013 elections at levels much higher than in previous elections, with participation rates on par with that of adults. The increase has driven candidates and campaign teams in Bouaké to develop outreach strategies directed at young voters.
From April to September 2013, USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives engaged a group that was historically associated with electoral violence to promote their positive involvement in political processes. With support from USAID, the Alliance des Jeunes pour la Paix (AJP) organized a series of activities including workshops on non-violent techniques of political conflict resolution, an awareness campaign on taking a non-violent approach, and discussions with local politicians.
These activities provided Bouaké youth from different political affiliations a platform to constructively discuss their participation in the democratic process. Youth from President Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front party, women’s associations and other affiliations took part. The youth were able to challenge the norms and structures that exclude them from electoral processes, engage with the local government, and demand accountability.
The activities gave young voters and ex-combatants, previously barred from voting in municipal elections, a unique opportunity to engage in discussions with their newly elected officials.
“This is the first time ever that I am involved in a meeting with such important local officials. I felt they listen to what I have to say, and that makes me happy,” said Ibrahim*, an ex-combatant and workshop participant.
Three weeks after the activities ended, some of the youth associations adopted the principles of non-violence in their organizations’ by-laws, including non-violent methods of political participation. As of late 2013, no violence had been recorded among Bouaké’s diverse youth groups.
As one of the training participants said, “We mingled with other youth and we learned how to settle our differences without resorting to violence.”
The members of AJP are being solicited to help strengthen other youth groups. USAID continues to work with AJP to develop and deliver its expertise on principles and methods of non-violent political participation.
*Last name withheld for security reasons.
Last updated: January 30, 2015