Monday, 20 February 2017

Rehabilitating, Reintegrating violent offenders and Violent Extremist Fighters in Cameroon: “Yes We Can” with Youth Civil Society

Empowering Youth Civil Society Actors as Agents of Rehabilitation and Reintegration (R-R) of People with a history of or Propensity for Violence in Cameroon.

Local Youth Corner Cameroon(LOYOC), a youth-led peace building and counter violent extremism organisation in Cameroon organised a national training on Rehabilitation and Reintegration of violent offenders and violent extremist fighters as the first phase of an eight-month project to promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration(Read more about LOYOC This training mobilised 30 youth civil society actors working on Rehabilitation and Reintegration, 10 front line practitioners from prisons and corrections centres from the ten regions of Cameroon.  The project is sponsored by the US Department of State through Global Center for Comparative Security. It was executed in partnership with Ministry of Youth Affairs and Civic Education, Ministry of Social Affairs and Ministry of External Relations in Cameroon, Search for Common Ground, Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network,  YouthCAN,  UNOY,  Step in Step Out UK, International Center for Counter Terrorism, and the Duke of Edinburg Award Cameroon. 
Dialogue and group discussion session
This residential training ran from January 17-19 in Yaounde. It began with a consultation and dialogue between the youth actors, frontline practitioners, state institutions on hope to engage every stakeholder in the process. The training later followed, which featured; experience sharing, use of sports, focus groups, dialogue, use of movies and videos, presentations and many others as the key methodology. Some of the themes of the training included; The role of Technology, Vocational Training and entrepreneurial initiatives towards R-R , The role of psycho- social support and Deradicalisation in R-R ,The role of sports and recreational activities as tools of social cohesion and personality development and The role of Education and communication in R-R .  The Representative of USAID in Cameroon stressed on the role of youths in this process and applauded on the methodology of the training during her presentation at the closing ceremony. 
Presentation of the National Rehabilitation and Reintegration Network by Representative of USAID Cameroon

Major findings during the first phase 
  • Lack of existing policy to support youth participation in R-R .
  • Little focus by the government and other development stakeholders of R-R in the fight against violent extremism
  • Lack of capacity and a common space for youth actors, front line practitioners, government and other stakeholders to collaborate .
  • Absence of evidence on the contribution of youths in promoting R-R and the fight against violent extremism 

Outcomes of the training 
  • Training and capacity building for 30 youth actors and 10 frontline practitioners from 10 Regions of Cameroon 
  • Development of a Youth Action Agenda for the promotion of R-R  in Cameroon by participants (policy Recommendations )-(Read final Draft here )
  • Development of a Network of youth actors, frontline practitioners and other stakeholders . ( See more : )
  • First ever dialogue between youth civil society, government and  frontline practitioners on promoting R-R
Participants watching  and brainstorming on "Hotel Rwanda" movie (famous movie on the Rwandan Genocide )
Key Objectives of Project 
     2 days residential consultation and training of 40 participants (30 youth civil society activists, 5 prison superintendents and 5 directors of correction centers) on rehabilitation and reintegration, peace building and Preventing / countering violent extremism.

     Create a network of civil society, penitentiary and social workers to promote rehabilitation and reintegration. (Cameroon National Youth  Reintegration & Rehabilitation Network - NRRN)

     Establish a dialogue platform for youth civil society, government institutions and other international development stakeholders to promote and support rehabilitation and reintegration initiatives.

     Develop a working document (action agenda) to promote youth engagement in rehabilitation and reintegration and also guide government policy on the subject

     Reach out to over 600 youths actors and front line practitioners during the compulsory Pass it On and advocacy action to be undertaken by participants after the training.

     Compilation and showcasing of over 30 positive practices of youth civil society organizations in promoting rehabilitation and reintegration in local communities.

     Set a pace for a possible multi-yearly project on engaging youth civil society within Cameroon and across the Central and West African Region on promoting rehabilitation and reintegration.
Training Sesssion 
Despite the success of this project, the current security situation in Cameroon greatly challenged the project. Internet blackout in some region, difficulties to access public transport and many others was a setback to the project. Nevertheless, the project team went to extra miles to ensure communication and movement of participants to and from the training venue. 

As highlighted in the project objectives, the second and third phases of the project are ongoing. The project Coordinator highlighted that " The last two phases of this project will ensure a successful beginning of a new era in promoting youth engagement in R-R of violent offenders"

Family photo of participants, trainers, and guest from State Institutions and International Organisations

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