Peace building through youth development and empowerment in Zimbabwe: exploring government and civil society initiatives.
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Zimbabwe is a country that has been in the grip of conflict since the formation of its modern state in 1890. The attainment of independence in 1980 has not transformed the country to be peaceful but has continued on a violent trajectory epitomised by endemic political violence and egregious violation of human rights. In the aftermath of independence, the youth increasingly became actors in violent conflict, notably political violence. Literature is replete with cases of widespread role of young people in accentuating violent conflict across the world. This phenomenon has been attributed by scholars to the bulging youth demography. The United Nations and the African Union have advocated for holistic and comprehensive youth empowerment packages as solutions to averting the inclination of young people to violent conflict. Guided by the human needs theory and community-based approach to peacebuilding, this study seeks to add voice to the debate on how youth empowerment packages can provide strategic solutions to the complex challenge of peacebuilding in Zimbabwe. In pursuit of this broad objective, the study examined the youth empowerment programmes which are spearheaded by the government of Zimbabwe and civil society organisations. Using the mixed methods approach, this study interrogates the nexus between youth empowerment programmes and peacebuilding. Utilising in-depth interviews, survey questionnaires and observations, the study identified salient youth programmes and policies through which the state and civil society can address the underlying causes of violent conflict. Both civil society and the government have given nominal participation or what this study calls ‘negative inclusion’ to young people and this has not enhanced the empowerment drive meant for them. Lack of opportunities for young people occasioned by lack of requisite skills has aggravated their vulnerability in the process making them susceptible to recruitment into extremist youth groups. Extreme poverty resulting from limited or non-existent economic opportunities has, in the long run, jeopardised the fragile peace in the country. In a nutshell, the youth have been marginalised in programmes that affect their lives, and this has resulted in young people being out of kilter with programmes purported for them. The study among others recommends that government and civil society should embark on genuine youth empowerment programmes for peace to endure in Zimbabwe.