KAMPALA – Uganda Muslim Youth Development Forum (UMYDF) with support from Finn Church Aid have conducted a drive to present an opportunity for learning and exchange on how communities and security operatives can collaboratively create awareness on the current surge in bomb attacks to build individual and community resilience to resist extreme narratives.
The drive that took place in Kazo, Angola in Kampala over the weekend had participants drawn from peacebuilding organizations, local council leaders, security officers among others engage locals on the current context of violent extremism in Uganda.
In the engagement, the team moved around the area in markets, shops, markets, mosques and churches to push the voice of putting an end to would be terror attacks.
Ms Jessica Nalumansi, the information secretary Kazo Angola L.C urged everyone to be vigilant because bombs are lately becoming too much.
She also advised the locals to report any suspicious item to the L.C authorities so that they can take it on with the experts.
“I have also told the children to desist from picking stuff randomly because terrorism has increased and we don’t know the contents of what they will pick. This is not about the Muslims, it is about everyone.”
Nalumansi further called upon everyone to look out for each other and urged landlords to introduce their new tenants to the Local Council authorities.
George William Kikomeko, the youth chairperson Kazo Angola Central thanked UMYDF and their Finn Church Aid partners for bringing such a timely workshop on vigilance in their area.
He called upon the youth to be on the lookout given the current challenges we are facing as a country since police always look at them first in case something happens.
“Judging someone from how they look is not good because it is wrong, we are actually peaceful people. Police regard youth with hair and tattoos as suspects in any crime that is committed so we need to be vigilant in all we are doing.”
Ms Lailah Zubairi, the Senior Programs Manager at UMYDF said they decided to take the peace conversation to communities to enhance people’s participation in stopping terror attacks and find ways how people can work together to deter youths from falling for messages of being recruited into terrorism.
Ms Zubairi revealed that the government can’t fight terrorism alone but it needs different stakeholders and youths are important in this regard.
“They are young and constitute a big population of the country. If prepared well they can be resilient to curb and avoid terror attacks.”
Art in fighting terrorism
According to Ms Zubairi, UMYDF realised that talking to the community alone to build their resilience for vigilance is not enough since humanity is also prone to forgetting.
They opted to do an art piece of graffiti on a wall and leave a message that everyone can pick at their convenience.
“We strategically placed the art on Noble Care Primary school wall and painted a Muslim woman, a Rasta and a police officer. These all ironically represent something in the piece,” she said.
Ms Zubair said they chose the Muslim woman because all these issues to do with terrorism are rotating around Islam so they wanted to show that Muslims strongly condemn acts of terror.
The graffiti shows that Islam stands together with those fighting terrorism.
“The Rasta in the picture brings out the youth image in the communities and how they (youth) are treated. This is to show that a youth has a voice they can add on all the conditions that bring about peace and development,” she said.
The police officer
Ms Zubairi also stated that the officer in the image is aimed at enhancing collaboration between the police and the locals. She said that overtime, youth have said that in their numerous engagements with police, they (police) have taken them on as suspects whenever they come up to report something.
“The hand shows that everyone regardless of their culture or religious affiliations, if they stand as one, they can overcome the violent extremism nature of terrorist and stand as a group to eventually bring about sustainable peace.”
Why the drive
In Uganda today, young men and women are faced with a number of challenges, including unemployment, discrimination, and limited inclusion/participation.
Without adequate support, these challenges often lead to negative coping mechanisms like youth resorting to violence for survival ultimately undermining security, stability, and development.
It is against this background that UMYDF and project trainers under the PVE Clinics organized the community drive to deepen the understanding of the current Violent Extremism context in Uganda.
They also wanted to help support community and security actors identify and address safety issues and grievances, enhance community and police understanding of each other as a basis to better engage and co-operate and generate co-production
Facilitation of timely identification and referral of critical situations was also an objective for the community drive.