Under the auspices of Cameroon’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Civic Education (MINJEC), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and, National Youth Council (NYC) – Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé was the seat of the first edition of a Model United Nations (MUN) Conference in Cameroon, dubbed Sub-Saharan International Model United Nations (SAIMUN) Conference.
The event which came up barely 3 days after the end-of-visit to Cameroon of former Director of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), turned Secretary General of United Nations (UN) – António Guterres: was held under the theme, ‘from crisis to crisis, terrorism and refugee crisis in Europe and Africa.’
At the opening ceremony, OKORO Roseline, Deputy Representative of UNHCR Cameroon, said, following the invitation of SAIMUN Cameroon, UNHCR being the mandated agency that takes care of refugees had to honour the call, since this year’s theme dealt with the plight of refugees.
‘We are happy that the youths – not just Cameroonian youths – are coming together…to take interest in issues like forced displacement, so that at this level in their career growth, they are able to take cognizance of these issues and contribute in their own way to resolving the recurrent and thorny issues of displacement’, she avowed.
‘We are happy that the youths are interested, involved, and have invested a lot by coming from different African countries’, she went on.
‘We are glad that Cameroon is standing among its peers…to address these critical issues, in the hope of finding long-lasting solutions. The fact that the youths are involved and I pray they continue being interested not only to talk about it, but to proactively find ways and means to putting an end to this longstanding crisis situation’, she emphasized.
Delegates & other officials at the opening ceremony
Meanwhile, the brain behind SAIMUN Cameroon, Sophie MONONO, was equally visibly confident and categorical about the indispensability and timeliness of the conference.
‘We want to open young students and professionals to the UN System. So we bring them together to simulate the UN under a specific topic’, she stated.
‘There is no lecture. The Delegates represent and defend different African countries…like in a real UN Conference. And at the end of the Conference, Delegates will come up with resolutions that would be signed and sent to the UN’, she affirmed.
Quizzed on the choice of the topic, she said, ‘we thought of terrorism because of what is happening in Africa, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa…and to ask what we as youths can contribute to curb terrorism and make sure youths are not radicalized.’
Brainstorming sessions in the UNHCR Committee
The event which ran from 30th October to 1st November, 2017, brought together dozens of Youth Delegates from miscellaneous fields of life, from 4 different African countries (including Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, and Cameroon) that were broadly divided into 2 Committees, to brainstorm on topical issues related to this year’s theme.
In a bit to ascertain how armed-violence and terrorism were related to human rights, good governance, security, and development in Africa and beyond, the General Assembly, Disarmament and International Security Committee (GA DISEC) on the one hand insightfully analysed matters related to the regulation and control of cross-border activities and deals – especially armed violence (which paves the way for terrorism) – through the movement of people and goods, considered very vital in ensuring peace, stability, security, and effective integration in Africa; while the UNHCR Committee on its part had deep-seated deliberations on contemporary issues surrounding the impact of conflict on migrants in Africa in particular, and the whole at large – like Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), asylum seekers, and refugees – in addition to the status and reintegration of the same.
Likewise, homage was paid to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while networking sessions, extra-curricular and recreational outdoor hangouts, and more, spiced the Conference.
Before the Conference was adjourned on 1st November, some resolutions on the specific focal points of the different Committees were arrived at by the same – which resolutions would be forwarded to the UN, for consideration.
The closing ceremony marked issuance of certificates of participation to all Delegates, and award of prizes to some Delegates of each Committee, categorized as follows – Best Position Paper, Best Delegate (in terms of diplomatic excellence), and Honourable Mention (for those predicted to most-likely become future Diplomats).
Cursory view of some fun moments during the closing ceremony
Visibly exhilarated by the level of accomplishment, the Delegates went ahead to divulge their delight, for having partaken in such a groundbreaking moment.
Makuru Kellen, female Delegate from Uganda who represented South Sudan in the UNHCR Committee, and also received one of the Honourable Mention awards for the same Committee, disclosed that the reason she chose South Sudan was because of the influx of Refugees into Uganda, after the violence erupted in South Sudan in yester years.
‘I was hoping to give my views and perspectives, and likely the Model United Nations (MUN) provided the opportunity of doing so in third person’, she confessed.
‘It’s been a very wonderful experience, and I’m very certain that all the delegates has learned something….The specific thing I learned was the moderation of a MUN Conference, the way the proceedings were carried out, how to become diplomatic, improving on our self-personality in public speaking, relations, and networking’, she corroborated.
While on her part, Nigerian-born female delegate and representative of Rwanda in GA DISEC, Princess Ibiene George, who grabbed home the Best Delegate award for that Committee, said, ‘it was a very impactful experience for me’, she said.
‘Representing Rwanda, a country which suffered massive genocide in 1994, I was in a position to discuss why Rwanda at this point is not inflicted with terrorism, compared to other countries which had not had such an experience’, Princess confessed.
‘I was able to highlight the measures that Rwanda had put in place on regional and international levels in collaboration with the UN, AU, and other sub-regional bodies, to ensure protection against terrorism’, she revealed.
‘It is on record that Rwanda is one of the safest countries in Africa. From SAIMUN, I learned about other countries, met people from different walks of life and countries, and it was an opportunity to experience what it feels like to be a member of the UN, to deliberate on issues, and draft resolutions’, she went on.
‘We also learned the terms used at the UN and to be ready for leadership that will definitely be in our hands tomorrow. So, I would say that, moving forward in Africa, we are ready to hold-on to the responsibilities at the UN. I’m grateful for such an experience, and encourage that it goes on in Africa, and across borders’, Princess concluded.
As well, Nigerian-born Kihende Ifeoluwa Damilola, who resides in Ghana, and served during the Conference as Co-Chair for GA DISEC, was visibly upbeat at the end.
‘As Co-Chair, I ensured: the Rules of Procedure (RoP) were followed, that the Committee sessions went-on smoothly, the debates were highly in order, discussions were properly channeled, and that resolutions drafted were not only good-looking, but were realistic and innovative’, he enlightened.
‘Despite the challenges that SAIMUN Cameroon had in organizing this Conference for their very first time, my joy is that the youth delegates that came were impacted with the specific topics that were discussed in their Committees…. Since I stepped my feet on Cameroon soil, it’s been a good encounter with me’, he assured.
‘What I’ve learned from Cameroon is the way and manner in which they accommodate visitors…. I’ve been treated well, and I pray that God continues to protect and bless every Cameroonian…. I also learned a lot of humility, because I see that Cameroonians are very humble’, he confided.
‘I also tasted some Cameroonian foods, like Ndolé, which were really good. After identifying with Cameroonians, I learned many things, including basic French Language. The experience has been good and I’ll love to come to Cameroon again at the slightest possible chance’, he concluded.
Certificates of participation & meritorious awards at closing ceremony, etc.
It must be reiterated that this budding edition could not have been more thoughtful and timely, given that its focus on refugees dovetailed with today’s global context of violent extremism and terrorism that have left a huge contingent of innocent citizens either internally-displaced in their countries of origin, or seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, thus exacerbating the humanitarian crises the world over. Going by UNHCR Global Trends, a whooping 65.3 million people, or one in every 113, were displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution in 2015; with an average of 24 people forced to flee each minute in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier, when 6 people fled every 60 seconds – this is pretty nerve-wracking. Besides, convening and engaging Africa’s future decision makers – the youths, to seek solutions to present-day problems plaguing especially Africa, not only increases their consciousness about the precarious nature of the prevailing state of affairs, but equally challenges them to seek innovative and better leadership approaches to redressing the problems which Africa faces: hence empowering them to become proactive, accountable and responsible leaders in future.