In the midst of conflict, as entire communities seek refuge in the coastal forests, 110 courageous Cameroonian young people - many of whom have been displaced, orphaned or trafficked - gathered at campuses throughout Cameroon to take part in the Global Justice Journal's 15-week Cameroon Peace Project. In an environment of safety and equality, Francophone and Anglophone teens broke free from the fears and prejudices that divided them since birth to find viable solutions for lasting peace. Together, these leaders of tomorrow have set in motion a detailed plan to heal their country.
Participants began the program by composing essays in which they described an injustice and cast themselves as the superheroes who saved the day, using any superpower they desired. Over time, as they studied real-life superheroes through historical texts, music and poetry - including Mandela, Gandhi, King, Parks, Gbowee, and others - they came to see that they didn't need supernatural powers to save the day. They already possessed the power to affect meaningful social change. More importantly, they learned that the youth of Cameroon are stronger united in peace than divided by violence. The result was a historic collaboration on a joint Resolution for Peace.
The very nature of the program subjected all involved to an element of risk. While the authoritarian regime of President Paul Biya strictly prohibits educational activities that deviate from the less-than-truthful State-sponsored curriculum and forbids discussion of the country's origin as a federal republic, armed factions in the South West and North West regions rebuke all peace efforts and regularly impose "ghost town" days during which no residents may leave their homes for fear of being shot. Tragically, innocent children are often the victims of a war that is not of their making. Such was the case on 24 October, 2020, when an unidentified group of armed men massacred eight students, and severely injured another 12, at a bilingual school near our Kumba campus. As a result, terrified parents pulled 21 students from the Peace Project. Still, 89 courageous Anglophone and Francophone students continued to attend class each week, joined forces to develop an extraordinary Resolution for Peace, and proudly graduated from the program with all due pomp and circumstance on 30 January, 2021.
Although the children have graduated, the Global Justice Journal's work in Cameroon continues as we advocate for the support and far-reaching sociopolitical change called for in the children's Resolution for Peace. In addition, the Global Justice Journal is now providing training in Small Business Management to survivors of gender based violence in Cameroon's conflict-affected North West region.