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Generation Gap

Nicholas Lembo's picture

Sudan refugee campSudan. Images of overcrowded, hot refugee camps immediately come to mind. In a land of dichotomies, with a conflict driven largely by land rights and oil, the last thing this country needs is another split in its society, but one is emerging. Old vs young.

Like much of the developing world, Sudan has an enormous population of young people, and the men are increasingly militant. It is no surprise that these young men are angry; they have no opportunity for jobs, education, and their few basic services come from the UN. Just as troubling, traditional elders are losing their authority. Sheikhs, who act as de facto officials in local affairs, are vital for any chance of peace, but can only help if their word is respected by the young men. When young men want more voice, have access to weapons, and stop listening to their leaders, a perfect storm looks to be brewing.

“Women and children first” is an easy axiom to support but to really save Sudan, young men must be able to assert themselves without resorting to violence. The UN is already short on peacekeepers; some type of “Awakening," akin to the local patrols used in Iraq, just may support two necessary missions. A job laden with the responsibility to protect your community provides self-respect and, more importantly, a steady paycheck.