Mobilizing Côte d'Ivoire's Next Generation

7/5/2019

This story of change is the fourth in a five-part series exploring the role of transitional justice in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 16 on peace, justice, and inclusion and related goals on gender and inequality. For more information on our work to advance SDG 16 and related goals, see the recommendations of the Working Group on Transitional Justice and SDG 16+.  Read the other stories in the series: 

Issoumaila Touré grew up during Côte d'Ivoire’s devastating First Civil War (2002-2007), watching his community be torn apart by political manipulations and ethnic differences. When his country once again descended into civil war following the 2010 presidential elections, Issoumaila, then a young man in his early 20’s, came to a major crossroads in his life.

As the postelection crisis escalated in the capital, Issoumaila among countless others was forced to flee Abidjan to the relative safety of the country’s interior. “I had to travel with my nephew, who was barely 3 years old. And we took the route from Abidjan for 350 kilometers. We were really traumatized every time we were stopped, either by the FDS [Defense and Security Forces] or by the rebel forces or by the young militias,” he recounts. “After that I told myself, never again will there be a world where kids are traumatized this way. We need to work so that trauma like this never happens again.”

This resolve to protect his young nephew’s life evolved into one to care for children and youth throughout Côte d'Ivoire and share the message of non-violence with them before they became hardened by conflict and political manipulation. Issoumaila recalls that, as a child in his village, no one had access to unbiased political information. Young people swore allegiance to political or militia groups based on promises of economic gain or safety for their families, often in exchange for violent acts. He now dreams of empowering youth and giving them the tools and information to become agents of peace, rather than of violence.

In 2012, ICTJ invited Issoumaila, along with other young leaders in the Abidjan region, to a training for youth on peace and transitional justice in Côte d'Ivoire. “After this training, the young people from all these different associations decided that they should stay together,” explains Issoumaila passionately. “If we stayed together, we could create a pretty strong network that could have a greater, mutual impact on our communities. That’s how we created the network.” By 2014, this group of motivated youth leaders had coalesced and officially became the Justice and Peace Action Network (Réseau Actions, Justice et Paix, or RAJP). Today, Issoumaila serves as RAJP’s resource person.

RAJP uses creative methodologies to bring youth together and educate them on transitional justice, social cohesion, gender equality, and peace. One of its main goals is to get youth talking, and to make everyone —children as well as women and men—feel that they are a meaningful and important part of the conversation. Currently, RAJP is travelling through the country, creating forums, such as radio programs and public dialogues, where youth can advocate for peace in the upcoming 2020 elections and beyond.

“We are creating agents of peace, little by little... What we lived was too hurtful and we cannot go through that again... We are trying to instill strength so that in 2020, money or bad situations will not so easily change people’s perspectives. We can’t guarantee that, but we can guarantee that we have passed that message around, so that people understand that they need not engage in violence.”

Issoumaila Touré is a youth activist based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. A lawyer by training, he is the founder and promoter of the School for Human Rights and Leadership. He is currently working on a new project, Kids Inaction.


PHOTO: Issoumaila speaks to young people in Côte d’Ivoire about leadership. (Issoumaila Touré)