Rehabilitated Youth Center Fosters Peace in Kantchari, Burkina Faso

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Thursday, October 21, 2021
Restored Youth Center provides a space for youth to interact and build community trust in conflict-affected Est region

Restored Youth Center provides a space for youth to interact and build community trust in conflict-affected Est region

"There is an improvement in relationships and interactions between young people because of this rehabilitation."

— OUOBA D. AHANDI, President of the Youth Coordination of Kantchari

Situated on Burkina Faso’s eastern border with Niger, the commune of Kantchari is confronted with both ongoing internal conflicts and cross-border insecurity from western Niger. Multiple violent extremist organizations (VEOs) are active in the surrounding area, making the commune an ongoing target of VEO attacks and severely restricting citizens’ mobility. VEOs exploit social tensions, community frustrations, and lack of economic opportunity to recruit local youth—who comprise a significant proportion of the population. A local kidnapping in April 2020 further exacerbated the situation,  increasing tensions between local Fulani and Gourmantché communities in Kantchari. The incident intensified the existing stigmatization of young people from the Fulani community and deepened the sense of mistrust and frustration amongst youth in Kantchari.

In partnership with Kantchari Mayor’s Office, USAID/OTI’s Burkina Faso Regional Program (BFRP) identified the rehabilitation and equipping of the existing Kantchari youth center as a means to provide youth with space to meet, exchange ideas, learn to reduce tensions and foster social cohesion in the commune. Initially constructed by the local government in 2001, the youth center had suffered from a lack of funding for years, preventing regular maintenance. By May 2020, it was in poor condition and when a violent windstorm destroyed its roof, the center was rendered unusable.

BFRP led restoration efforts between February and July 2021 and subsequent construction of a new outdoor study area and the rehabilitation of the center’s main building, soccer field, latrines, and electrical system. Additionally, BFRP equipped the center with furniture (chairs, desks, and work tables), a desktop computer and printer, a generator, and sports equipment (soccer balls, nets, and cones). 

To ensure the sustainability and proper management of the center and its equipment, BFRP established a management committee, composed of members of the Kantchari Youth Association, who received training in equipment maintenance and financial management. Samuel Lompo, a member of the management committee explained, “with this accumulated knowledge [from the training], it will allow me to be more efficient in the management of the material of the Youth Center of Kantchari."

On July 23, 2021, the Mayor of Kantchari, municipal councilors, prefect, religious and customary leaders, school heads, and members of the community participated in a handover ceremony. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked USAID/OTI/BFRP and stated that the center’s rehabilitation was a significant source of relief for the commune. “When the wind blew off the roof of the center, the commune did not know how to restore it because we did not have the financial capacity. This situation was a huge thorn in our side and USAID, through the BFRP program, removed it through this restoration.”

Soon after this ceremony, on August 12, the center hosted a soccer match between the youth of Kantchari and the neighboring commune of Diapaga, which provided an opportunity for these young people, whose relationships had been impacted by years of tension and social fragmentation, to reunite and interact in a positive manner. “Through the Youth Center, young people are able to meet, exchange, and plan activities. We organized a friendly match against the youth of Diapaga at the Center, and this is a clear example of willingness to improve relations among the youth,” said Ouoba D. Ahandi, President of the Youth Coordination of Kantchari. Dah Ouali Bouampoundi, a civil servant at the Mayor’s Office, noted, “The rehabilitation of the Youth Center has improved relations and interactions between young people who meet there to play sports together in the evenings. The young people did not have a space to meet, to exchange ideas and to benefit from sports training, but now they have it.”

Additional events at the youth center continue to bring community members together. Most recently, in September, the local NGO Youth Visionary Association held a Peace Festival at the center, which drew participation from 150 people from Kantchari and its surrounding villages. The festival strengthened social ties between different socio-economic classes in Kantchari and promoted peace among the youth of the commune. During the festival, local youth planted trees together, played friendly soccer games, and participated in an art competition, during which some youth performed self-composed songs about peace. 

Today, Kantchari’s youth continue to frequent the center, which contributes to reducing tensions among youth, addressing stigmatization of the Fulani community, mitigating sources of vulnerability to VEO recruitment and other conflict drivers, and building community trust. By uniting youth around common and shared interests, the youth center’s rehabilitation has been a positive step toward minimizing VEO influence in Kantchari and improving social cohesion. 

Last updated: October 21, 2021

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