Youth unemployment - a threat to Sierra Leone's security?

Sierra Leone has come a long way since the brutal 1991-2002 civil war, which left thousands dead, countless numbers displaced, and the country's economy and institutions in tatters. Youth unemployment was a major cause of the conflict, so it is worrying that despite significant economic growth at a macro-level and large-scale foreign investment, up to 70 percent of youths are underemployed or unemployed, according to the World Bank.

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With presidential elections scheduled for 17 November, concerns have been raised over the potential for violence, with an estimated 800,000 unemployed young people seen as vulnerable to recruitment into violent activities. Recent elections, including the 2007 presidential elections, have seen outbreaks of youth-led violence.

Last September in the country's second largest city, Bo, violence erupted at a political rally of the opposition Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), with crowds of young men engaging in running battles with the police and torching buildings associated with the ruling All People's Congress (APC).

Addressing the problem of youth unemployment is seen as essential to Sierra Leone's continuing recovery, and both major political parties have included in their manifestos measures designed to create jobs.