Salone News

Unemployed Youths: Sierra Leone’s Time Bomb

4 November 2006 at 22:11 | 450 views

By Alpha Rashid Jalloh, Freetown

When the Ministry of Youths admitted in an official document that the single most important threat to security in these early days of post-war Sierra Leone is youth unemployment, it was an indication that the security of Sierra Leone was still under threat.

Youth unemployment is one of the legacies of the ten years war that made Sierra Leone one of the unsafe countries in the world.

After the war, about 40,000 ex-combatants were demobilised and they joined the thousands of other unemployed youths in the country. The bulk of the fighting forces were drawn from youths during the war.

Many received skills training before they were reintegrated but they did not have the capital to start life. In the midst of the harsh realities that plague post war Sierra Leone and a gerontocratic government that caters for the needs of the old, youths find themselves marginalized. They live in boredom and frustration. The usual consolation from the old politicians, many of who have dominated public service and the political scene since early post independence is, "The youths are the leaders of tomorrow". But the youths want to be the leaders of today, they want to actively take part in national decision- making and want to gain employment to live descent lives. Their roles in society should not just be to campaign or be used as tools in so-called community development ventures.

"These frustrated youths are prone to violence" an official document from the ministry of youth stated.

The following statements from the document have pictured the situation of the youths; "The problem is particularly visible and acute in Freetown and some big towns, where the war attracted large numbers of youths. Having witnessed the elusive wealth and lustre of city life, they are more inclined to stay there and try their luck than to return to the dead end of rural existence. But then life in the city for them becomes a nightmare of idleness, misery and hopelessness because of unfulfilled dreams".

It becomes more frustrating when politicians who had neglected them throughout, approach them to win their support when elections are approaching. Everyday things become hard, but they hear of neighbours who are related to politicians getting fat jobs, travelling abroad or engaging in lucrative businesses.

College graduates find it difficult to get jobs while half-baked party supporters are pitch forked into certain positions. The politicians themselves go around driving in $80,000 jeeps. It gives the tendency to ask, "What are we? Where are we?".

Youth unemployment is now like powder keg. It is one the most delicate issues to be handled by the next government after 2007 elections.

Photo: Dr. Dennis Bright, Sierra Leone’s minister of Youth and Sports.