Young peace activists in Mali

Aug 11, 2021

The story of Abdoul Azize Mohamed

By Charalampia Armpounioti

Abdoul Azize Mohamed in action with Malian youth (Photo: Abdoul Azize Mohamed)

Following the adoption of the Security Council resolution 2100 of 25 April 2013, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established to support political processes in the country and to carry out crucial security-related operations. Since then, the mission has been acting to “facilitate the implementation by Malian actors of a comprehensive politically-led strategy to protect civilians, reduce intercommunal violence and re-establish State authority, State presence and basic social services in Central Mali.”

To ensure the establishment of lasting peace, in any conflict and post-conflict setting, the engagement and active participation of local populations in peace and decision-making processes is of critical importance. Young people have an especially important role to play in bringing positive change and facilitating the path towards a sustainable future. Abdoul Azize Mohamed is one of the many young people in Mali who are working tirelessly for a better future for their country by actively engaging in peace processes.

Abdoul Azize Mohamed in action supporting local communities (Photo: Abdoul Azize Mohamed)

Abdoul Azize Mohamed is a young leader from the region of Timbuktu. He dedicates himself to peace and strengthening social cohesion, and is a strong advocate of the rights of children, young people and women, especially with regard to education, health and access to basic social services. His decision to become a peace activist was greatly influenced by the challenges he had to go through at a younger age.

In 2012, due to the political and security crisis in Mali and despite his excellent performance at school, Abdoul was forced to abandon his studies to take refuge in Fassala and then in the M’berra refugee camp in Mauritania. Unable to continue his education due to the lack of schools in the camp, he collaborated with a local NGO and managed to build a high school within the camp. After coming back to Mali in 2016, Abdoul decided to get actively involved in youth empowerment programmes with the hope that no other young person would have to go through the same experience.

Abdoul is a member of the organising team of the Vivre ensemble Festival in Timbuktu, which was supported by MINUSMA and other partners with the objective to bring together Tuareg, Arab, Songhai and other communities for the benefit of peace and social cohesion. He is also the president of the organisation Association des jeunes Touaregs et sympathisants pour la Paix, established in 2013, and Secretary-General of the Association ANMATAF de jeunes de la commune d’Essakane. It is with the latter organisation that Abdoul hosts friendly football matches in the communities of Faguibine and Goundam to reinforce peace, social cohesion and good neighbourliness. The NGO also holds debates with youth in marginalized areas of Timbuktu to discuss peace, tolerance and mutual respect, and collects funds for various causes.

Abdoul Azize Mohamed in action with ANMATAF (Photo: Abdoul Azize Mohamed)

We asked Abdoul to talk about his future plans, as well as about youth in his country, and the importance of their involvement in peace and decision-making.

What are the key challenges that youth face in Mali?

In Mali, corruption and favouritism pose many difficulties for youth.Young people lack training and coaching, and face enormous challenges; children suffer from the closure of schools, young graduates remain unemployed, and there is little professional training on leadership, citizenship, good governance, culture of peace, advocacy for youth especially in rural communities and nomadic areas. Our public administrations are not close to the citizens. Youth-led initiatives do not enjoy much support.

Abdoul Azize Mohamed supporting youth (Photo: Abdoul Azize Mohamed)

Why do you think it is important to involve youth in peace processes and decision-making?

The youth are the future of the nation. They must be trained, coached and encouraged to form part of the peace process and decision-making. Some young people, especially those that lack basic education, are easily manipulated and enrolled in armed groups, terrorist organisations, or can easily fall victims of trafficking.

The youth are the future presidents, ministers and governors of Mali. They must be consulted and involved in the decision making process so that they can be an example for others in order to encourage young people to help build the nation together and take up the challenges we are facing today.

Abdoul with fellow youth in Mali (Photo: Abdoul Azize Mohamed)

How do you define peace?

Peace is a behaviour of tolerance in all its forms, compassion and humanity towards all citizens of the world, without distinction of colour, religion or opinion.

What is your message to fellow youth in Mali and across the world?

I invite and urge all young people to carry out actions of peace through their daily behaviour. In this way, they will inspire others and help build an environment of peace, joy and development.

MINUSMA works to involve and support youth in Mali such as Abdoul in order to increase their involvement in peace processes and decision-making. Find out more about how MINUSMA and the other peacekeeping missions work to support youth and promote the Youth, Peace and Security agenda here.

Young peace activists in Mali was originally published in We The Peoples on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.