By NewsWatch Correspondent
A sports-led initiative with the aim to promote social cohesion, living together amongst Internally Displaced Persons, (IDPs) from the North West and South West regions and their host communities in the Littoral region is currently underway in Douala.
The competition termed ” Na-we-we Sports jamboree ” is organized by youth-led peace building organization, Local Youth Corner, (LOYOC) under the distinguished patronage of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Civic Education, (MINJEC).
The project has equally been supported by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), within the framework of its programme on security and the use of sports as a tool to prevent violent extremism.
The opening match to kick start the two months long tournament, took place Saturday July 9 at the multipurpose sport complex of “Lycée Polyvalent” in Bonaberi, Douala IV subdivision.
Competing for National Unity
The soccer tournament has brought together some 25 teams made of IDPs and residents of host communities. The teams are currently competing not for the “trophy” but for the sake of “national unity”
Through sports, the leadership of LOYOC, intends to help IDPs improve on their mental health , build self-esteem , skill, behaviors, promote social wellbeing amongst others.
They drew inspiration from the universal peace language conveyed through sporting activities and more so, in relation to the symbolic peace which Cameroonians witnessed during 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations, (AFCON) which was staged in the country.
It was on this backdrop that, the executive director of LOYOC, Christian Achaleke and his team moved to put an end to the growing animosity , struggles which had characterized the daily lives of IDPs within their host communities.
“As a youth leader, I have been to many countries across the world, and I have had to witness the power of sports in building peace, when football is played, people forget race, ethnicity, language and they speak just one language, that of football, sports” Achaleke said at the opening of the jamboree.
“Local Youth Corner is here today in Bonaberi, to celebrate with our brothers and sisters from North West and South West who have fled the war. We want to send hope and give them the zeal to live again, let them forget about their worries , challenges and celebrate through sports. That is why we called the jamboree, ‘Na we we. So to say we are one people” he continued.
“Play together, glad together”
It should be noted that the host community for the tournament, Bonaberi, has been a safe heaven for over 100,000 young people since the North West and South West went into violent conflict in 2017. Amongst other consequences, the conflict has brought about tensions amongst communities.
LOYOC’s theme for the jamboree: “We di play together, we di glad together” , represents a picture of how the concept of living together ought to be. The theme also expresses the need to rebuild trust and the peaceful coexistence between IDPs and their host communities.
The representative of MINJEC, Nang Terrestrial, in his remarks, applauded the initiative and said, the ministry had provided support towards LOYOC’s goals as it ties with the state’s plan to promote unity.
“For several weeks we have worked together with Mr Achaleke to realize this sport project. I must say that the state is out to promote youth initiatives like this one which are out to foster peace in our country”, he said.
Among the teams participating are eight teams of football girls and boys, handball girls, basketball boys, a mixed dancing competition and other leisure activities .
The organizer, LOYOC Cameroon hopes to create a safe space for dialogue, peer to peer learning, youth leadership and social cohesion during the two months long jamboree.