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




We, young people from the ten regions of Cameroon working through Civil Society Organisations to promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent offenders, meeting in Yaoundé from the 17th -19th of January 2017, in the objective to strengthen our capacities, network and dialogue with government officials, experts and front-line practitioners; do present our aspirations through this action agenda, on how the Government, International organizations, Civil Society Organisations, entrepreneurs and young people in Cameroon can promote youth participation in rehabilitation and reintegration and building sustainable peace in Cameroon. 

We draw from the current state of affairs in Cameroon where there is a marked increase in acts of violence from petty aggression to the radicalisation and recruitment of young Cameroonians into violent extremist activities;

We uphold the constant resolve of the State of Cameroon to punish perpetrators of violence, to strengthen the justice system and equally to provide a safe possibility for the rehabilitation and reintegration of such violent offenders;

Recognise the challenges faced by Government, frontline practitioners and young people in Cameroon in developing and implementing effective and impact based rehabilitation and reintegration initiatives in Cameroon;

Hereby, with this Action Agenda, reaffirm our strong will and unrelenting commitment to be partners and actors in promoting rehabilitation and reintegration as well and the promotion of sustainable peace in Cameroon.
This document was developed by youths and is the outcome of an open consultation process with frontline practitioners, experts and government institutions private institutions to ensure an inclusive and integrated approach to providing rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for violent offenders in Cameroon. 

Whereof, we,

Refer to the Cameroon National Youth Policy which puts young people as key actors of development in Cameroon and legitimises the involvement of young people in civil society to promote national development;

Build on the Presidential Decree No 92/052 of 27 March 1992 on the penitentiary regime of Cameroon, whose Section 2 enforces the creation of befitting penitentiary centres to ensure the effective rehabilitation and reintegration of violent offenders;

Inspired by the recommendations made by the Action Agenda on Engaging civil society actors in the rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremist offenders and returning foreign terrorist fighters;

Capitalise on the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security; which emphasises the role of young people in disengagement, and solicit government and development stakeholders to cooperate with young people to ensure effective rehabilitation and reintegration;

Call on the Government, International Organisations, Civil Society, Media, Entrepreneurs, Religious and traditional rulers to support and collaborate with us young people to promote rehabilitation and reintegration of violent offenders, to promote sustainable peace and fight against violent extremism  in Cameroon.

Reacting to the challenges we have identified as a deterrent to rehabilitation and reintegration process in Cameroon, we present the following recommendations which will provide solutions to these challenges and amplify our actions;


1.     Infrastructure and policy;

There is the need for the Government to:

a.     Renovate and construct new penitentiary infrastructure, which will provide an acceptable living environment to violent offenders. This will provide a safe space for us young people to engage with these penitentiary and reformatory centres to carry out rehabilitation and reintegration activities.

b.     Adopt and implement policies at the local and national level which are youth friendly and promote collaboration between government institutions and youth civil society actors in Cameroon in diverse fields so as to lay the ground work for effective collaboration. 

c.     Develop and implement psycho-social programmes, civic education, vocational training, recreational, sports and other activities within incarceration facilities in order to forestall a holistic approach to rehabilitation and reintegration.

d.     Incorporate the spirit of the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth Peace and Security into national policy orientations as it remains one of the most strategic international instruments for the promoting disengagement of violent offenders and ex-combatants.

e.     Promote quality and accessible educational, properly address socio- economic and political grievances and provide employment opportunities, which are usually the driving factors of violence and well as propaganda used by violent extremist groups for radicalisation and recruitment.

2.     Capacity Building for actors and Frontline practitioners;

With a disturbing rise in violence and terrorist activities within Cameroon, there is the need for capacity building and the grooming of a generation of peace champions to match and surpass the vectors of violence. Thus, the government should:

a.     Invest and promote the training and capacity building of frontline practitioners in prisons and correction centres as well as local and community actors who engage in activities relating to rehabilitation and reintegration.

b.     Engage a multi-dimensional team of personnel from other Government Departments like Public Health, Social Affairs, Small business and Social Economy to be involved in the rehabilitation and reintegration process at local units in order to respond to specific concerns of individual in rehabilitation as the need may arise.

c.     In the case of open prison system, the government should prioritize providing nonviolent communication, civic education and conflict resolution skills to help prevent the radicalization of inmates and other parties while in these facilities. 

3.     Conduct and promote Research

The lack of information and empirical evidence on positive practices and challenges faced in rehabilitation and reintegration is a major challenge to the promotion of this process in Cameroon. Thus, the government should:

a.     Fund and work in cooperate with other stakeholders to carry out evidence-based research and provide information based on the state of reintegration and rehabilitation programmes in Cameroon which will set the context for the engagement of youth civil society actors and partner bodies involved in rehabilitation and reintegration.

4.     Collaboration with local and international actors

a.     The trans-national character of violence and violent extremist activities which today defy across national border have come to rekindle the need for our Government to strengthen cooperation between youth, experts, community and religious leaders, neighbouring countries as well as international organisations to build comprehensive approaches and effective practices to tackle the phenomenon.
b.     Work in collaboration with families, community and religious leaders and groups, youth civil society, and other to prepare communities to better integrate returnees and  those being reintegrated


1. Implement existing policies and support youth engagement:
Considering the many international instruments, coordinated multi-lateral policies and action agendas which enshrine the role of youth in the rehabilitation and reintegration process, it is worthwhile for international organisations in Cameroon to contribute further to the implementation of these policies at the national and local levels. This will involve:

a.     Using their expertise and know-how to provide training for youth actors as well as creating strong networks to facilitate the participation of these actors in exchange and capacity building programs across the world.

b.     Liaising with youth actors on the field to understanding and identify the specific nature of the problems encountered in order to better carve out avenues of partnership and shared initiative.

c.     Integrating the youth perspective in rehabilitation and reintegration aspects within their national and local programmes so as to put these young actors at the frontline of the reintegration system.

d.     Funding and providing technical assistance for rehabilitation and reintegration initiatives developed by young people particularly at the community level.

e.     human rights groups, prison authorities, communities, religious groups can all support prison activities in such a way that creates a more humane environment physically and psychologically.


1. Support rehabilitation and reintegration as corporate social responsibility

a.     In this connection, we recommend that business entities should allocate part their corporate social responsibility resources to support youth initiative and organisations in implementing local and national initiatives on rehabilitation and reintegration as well peace building and countering violent extremism initiatives. 

b.     Establish respectable quotas for employment of youth in host communities where they can serve as torch bearers for peace building

c.     Create Job Opportunities

a.     Entrepreneurs should create sustainable, accessible, and equal­ opportunity employment for young people especially rehabilitated individuals so as to facilitate their reintegration into the society. In this light, they should establish employment friendly policies in host communities in order to help the emergence of torch bearers for the propagation of peace.

b.     Entrepreneurs should work in collaboration with youth civil societies to develop vocational training and capacity building programme for young people currently undergoing rehabilitation and reintegration.


1.     Collaborate with other actors and strengthen networks of youth actors working on Rehabilitation and Reintegration

Youth Civil societies from the ten regions of in Cameroon need to unite and work with each other to develop initiatives that overcome frequent pitfalls and promote positive practices. This will involve:

a.     Collaborating with other development stakeholders including the government, international organisations, researchers, religious and cultural institutions, entrepreneurs and other civil society organisations in developing and executing and assessing programmes.
b.     Developing a comprehensive platform and solid network for the exchange of positive practices, capacity building, and training of actors from local to national level.

c.     Identifying community radios and local media platforms, families, religious and cultural groups to spread messages of tolerance and peace so as to ensure the successful and sustainable reintegration of violent offenders back in their communities.

d.     Creating a common database for information sharing among youth actors on the general challenges and opportunities for peace building in the respective localities for exploitation by the national network.

e.     Setting up an early warning system through the emission of alerts and notices to other partners and network members on the peace situation in their parts of the country.

2. Incorporate Rehabilitation and Reintegration programmes in existing peace building and CVE initiatives.

In sum, we agree strongly on the need to perceive rehabilitation reintegration into the greater scope of peace building and Countering Violent Extremism. We equally affirm that if the violent offenders of today are not properly healed, they eventually become even more violent offenders in the close future.

It is in this will and armed with the conviction that youth play a central role in this process that we have agreed on this action agenda whose implementation will take the form of a permanent national instrument to be implemented by the National Rehabilitation and Reintegration Network.