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C H A P T E R F I V E Warlords and Stovepipes The African diplomat recalled the encounter that changed his thinking about development. During an interview, he described returning home following postelection unrest that had shaken his country. He had assumed that the causes of the turbulence were structural. “There was a land issue, an ethnic issue,a class issue,”he explained.To sidestep any trouble,he decided to drive his car straight to the region where he had grown up: his ethnic homeland. “I should feel safe there,”he told himself. No such luck: in the main city of his home area, “thirty or forty male youth stopped me. Some were looking very high on drugs and alcohol.” The youth, it turned out, were in no mood to listen. They had come to lecture. One of the youth asked the diplomat, “Who do you think you are, with your car, driving comfortably?” A second youth poked his chest and said,“You are part of our problem in this country. Your life can continue as if nothing has happened here.But if you turn your back when things go wrong, then you’re part of the problem.” What had gone wrong? There were two major problems: education and unemployment. One of the youth told the diplomat,“I was at a polytechnic but I had to drop out because my mother had no school fees.”Another added, “We have done what we were told, but here we are. Where are those jobs?” Some of the male youth had followed the development blueprint—getting education and a university degree—but still ended up jobless. In response, some youth tried another road.“If you hijack a bus at the end of the month [after workers receive their monthly salaries], you get their money from payday and their mobile phones.” One youth told the diplomat, “If I see a young woman in a nice car, I know she has a nice job and a bit of money. If I relieve her of her money, she will just get more at the end of the month.” Another youth stated, “Why should these wealthy people live such a good W A R L O R D S A N D S T O V E P I P E S 1 7 7 life? We don’t want to harm people: we just want their money.This is what we do.” The diplomat explained the youth’s rationale for what they considered justified robbery.“Youth see theft as a solution: if they play by the rules and end up in a desperate situation, then they’re a burden to their parents.” “There’s a crisis for us youth,”one male youth told the diplomat.“Nobody cares for us; nobody is looking out for us. Because we are poor, we can’t rely on our relatives for help. And we cannot go on like this.The army of those who sleep with nothing are many and we’re growing every day. You don’t have much time.” The male youth also referred to “the war between all of us youth and all of you.” Youth hugely outnumber adults in the diplomat’s country, and this youth knew it. The diplomat also told me about a conversation he had with a female youth in an urban neighborhood during that same visit home. “She was twenty-one.She had her first child at age seventeen,”and she lived with her mother.“Fathers are just at large and not around,”she explained to him.To supplement the money her mother made selling produce in the market, she did men sexual favors for money.“I decided to do it,”the female youth told the diplomat, “because we needed the money.” The diplomat asked her if she used condoms to avoid hiv/aids.“We use condoms,”the female youth explained,“but if [a customer] looks ok and they are willing to pay more [to have sex without a condom], then we do it with no condom.”Like the male youth explaining their work as thieves, the female youth told the diplomat, “Something is so wrong.I’m not in a position to fix this: people like you can fix this. I’m a victim of this situation.” What did these conversations tell the African diplomat? “The truth is,” he concluded,“youth all feel like outsiders who have no stake and absolutely nothing to lose.” He was convinced that “the...


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MARC Record
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