“My story would have been different. As a young military officer, I hearkened the call of duty in the bushy borderlands interdicting smugglers and providing aviation security. From a baptism of heavy withering fire on the beaches of civil war Monrovia, I was to spend several more years with my comrades, fighting in the jungles of Sierra Leone to protect my compatriots,” he explained.
The President also said that the topic for the lecture on youth revolved around how African countries had grappled with the youth question, had integrated youth in policy-making and implementation, and what had been the implications for national and regional security and development.
He cited corruption, nepotism, governance deficits and inefficiencies, uneven state resource distribution and management and lack of social services and infrastructure as some of the factors that could lead to lack of opportunity for young people, exclusion and youth disillusionment in African countries.
His Excellency the President further examined some of the barriers to youth participation in good governance to include narrow political space for young people in state governance and political parties, the lack of access to quality education, vocational training and economic opportunities.
He also stated that there were limited civic spaces and civic participation either because young people were not well organised in civic organisations or their interests were not fully represented in existing organisations, adding that there was also the lack of youth engagement in national policy and planning dialogue.
The President spoke about some of the policy and structural interventions that have been implemented in Sierra Leone to enhance youth inclusiveness in governance since the end of the war.
Proffering solutions to addressing the lack of youth inclusiveness in good governance, President Bio submitted that young people should be given leadership roles in governance, adding that: “Those roles should be central to setting a forward-looking agenda within government and should be at the heart of policy and decision-making.”
He also suggested that creating viable forums for dialogue with youth at all levels of governance would align government and youth policy choices and strategies, adding that government should promote access to quality education and skills training for young people to access livelihood opportunities.
His Excellency President Bio concluded his inspiring Lecture with some words of optimism in the college auditorium by saying that: “Building the capacity of young people is not an option, it is at the heart of good governance and sustainable development. It fosters healthier, more educated, more peaceful, and more prosperous nations.”
The National Defence College later presented gifts to the President and First Lady Fatima Bio before they were led for the traditional photo with the Graduands and later attended a reception organised in his honour.