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Can sport save young Somalis from joining violent groups?

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Can sport save young Somalis from joining violent groups?

“If children in Africa were exposed to other countries, we wouldn’t have bombers from Somalia in Kenya, they would know that we all belong to one family and we are grateful this happens at East Africa Cup.”

It’s a strong statement, but Akope Caroline Aisu, a conflict resolution workshop facilitator isn’t alone in this belief, as a delegation from Norwegian People’s Aid Somalia (NPAS) investigate the East Africa Cup (EAC) model, to see if the union of sport, culture and education can offer youth more opportunities on the field and away from violence.

When informed of this statement, Shukri Yusuf Apti, Head of Field Office for NPAS, said "I fully agree 100% When I come here, I am jealous because the children are all playing together!" 

Current social attitudes
Ahmed Farah Mohamed, Programme Manager at NPAS believes gossip and lack of exposure is to blame for prejudices that young Somalis hold against other Africans. He comments:

"Somalis judge Ethiopians with negative prejudices, but if they were to meet and exchange cultures, they would realise that everything they have heard is not true. By bringing these young people together at sports tournaments like this, it will help minimise prejudices in these communities."

His colleague, Mohammed Hussein, Project Officer at NPAS, agrees. "I see great opportunities for Somali youth, as youth involvement in crime, violent groups and drugs increases, but with workshops educating them and sport bringing them together, youth can be protected," he said. 

Re-building the country starts with the youth 
Shukri believes her trip to EAC has made her re-evaluate the importance of sport. "I see young boys concentrating on football, but I never knew about the other lessons it can teach. Now I am at East Africa Cup, my attitude is changing and I understand why young people choose to come together and I see the benefits it can bring," she said.
 
The potential of the EAC model
NPA has already started bringing young people together in 'hot spot' areas most susceptible to violent conflict. "Areas are divided and you see that the South is underdeveloped, whereas the North have facilities so there is already potential for conflict between groups from the two areas, but if we could bring them to East Africa Cup, then young Somalian's will see that it is easy to mix with others," said Ahmed. 

"We do have football teams scattered across the country, but many people are doing their own projects and there is nothing bringing them together," said Shukri. 

There is also a commercial interest in community teams as she explains “We have small merchants sponsoring their names of team kits and donating balls and uniforms, so people are interested!”

The delegation hope to see a team participate next year, fingers crossed!

Find out more about EAC 2012

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Article type

News

Author

Mel Paramasivan

Published

Saturday, June 30, 2012 - 23:00