CECAFA’s ‘Development and Friendship’: The Youth, Still The Reason To Come Together
What are the odds of seeing the kind of solidarity that brings together people and specially youngsters in a region long associated with conflict, instability, poverty and many other negative and gloomy connotations? Not very much, many would agree But when one witnesses the kind of presentation that was held in the 14th of August at Asmara Stadium for the commencement of the 5th CECAFA tournament under twenty, one should admit that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel. No one would be left unimpressed that the much needed solidarity in the region could come from the one area which has been kept in the periphery; Sport. Could there be a more unifying factor? And what’s more, to the most important section of society, that is the youth.
What are the odds that young Eritrean artist would sing for the beauty of Tanzania? Or the riches of the Kenyan culture, or the vastness of the land of Sudan, or the greenness of Uganda, or the steadfast Somalia, or to the peace and development of the region? Indeed it was inspiring to see the mesmerizing presentation of the flags of the region by Eritrean youngsters provoking everyone into looking at the bright side, the possibility of unity and peace. We have seen it all and were moved. And Eritrean was proud of their nation and its initiative and dedication to bring together the youth of the region once again. It is not of course the first time that Eritrea was once again the hub of the region where pressing issues of mutual concern is continuously deliberated. Indeed it has not been long since Eritrea hosted the International Youth Forum under the theme “Mutual Understanding for Peace, Security and Sustainable Development” with the goal of bringing together international representatives of youth and student organizations to discuss creating partnership through the themes of inclusive dialogue and exchange. We have all witnessed the reaction it provoked and the awareness it has created. The accommodations Eritrea offered in many peace processes in the region is also a recent phenomenon that will be remembered in history.
These two weeks of sport activities in the heart of Eritrea, is being carried out under the theme ‘friendship and development’. Needless to say our region has a lot of homework in the road to holistically development. And it is also understood that there is a major work needed not only individually but also collectively in order to overcome the challenges in this task. In this increasingly interdependent world the need to come together in many of our interdependent tasks and concerns has become a rule. In no other place in the world is this rule more appealing than in our region where the most basic necessities in the road to development is lacked due to the hindrances we have caused to each other and the will we have not shown. In this respect the theme under which the tournament is held, ‘Development and Friendship’, is timely. Moreover, the fact that the youth are the reason for this has made it more imperative for our future and best hopes lies in them.
It may take more than just a theme or logo to tackle the problems we are facing in the region and we may also not be able to sport our way out of them. The point of interest here is however, the symbolical representation the occasion imparts. The spirit of solidarity this occasion was able to foster is significant in as much as it has confirmed that everyone in the region is for it. It may as well represent the craving of friendship and harmony by the people of the region. What is more, the fact that it is organized by countries of the region makes all the difference. If we could host this tournament with such impressive organization, skill, and enthusiasm that brought us closer than ever, then there could be no reason why we couldn’t come together in the pressing issues of facing our region. If nothing else, there could be no doubt as to our ability to create a platform to bring such issues forth for their solution. That was what it is when Eritrea hosted the International Youth Forum and there is no doubt that we can do it again in a much bigger way for a much bigger issue. The tournament again confirmed that there is no limit to such possibilities.
The 5th CECAFA tournament under 20 has bolstered the confidence of the region that we can do anything, and that we can come together for a common goal. In this case for ‘Development and Friendship’. Especially for Eritrea the tournament has earned the appreciation and acknowledgement of the region that it is always at the forefront of regional issues. It has also reasserted Eritrea’s commitment to the region making it a good example and an inspiration to others. And it is all well deserved as Eritrea has proved time and again its belief is in peace, friendship and development. The association of Eritrea to these values will also create familiarity and trust for Eritrea that the region could always depend on it as a reliable partner. What this all comes down to is that, our region has tried it with others coming from far away and tell us the way to do things. For years we have searched for the remedies of our problems everywhere but within ourselves. We have also been tacitly accepting the prescriptions that were handed to us by others but in vain. It didn’t solve our problems. If anything it has complicated it even more. It will only be natural, therefore, now we search for the solutions within ourselves. Let us now try it our way, and just like the theme of the Cup suggests be friends and develop. May be it is better that way; may be that is what we need.