A few years ago, Aliou Sagna was one of the leaders of Bouyan Bouyan Style, a youth gang known for its violence in Kindia, Guinea. Aliou remembers: “We were young, lost and hot headed… We were just a gang of young guys without any objectives in life. Violence was a way for us to make our voices heard.”
Today, Aliou proudly introduces himself as the Vice-President of Kindia’s most influential youth association, which kept the name Bouyan Bouyan Style, but now has a clear objective: acting as peacemakers through music in their community.
After participating in the USAID-funded project “Youth and Non-violence” implemented by Search for Common Ground (SFCG) in Kindia from September 2008 to March 2010, Saliou and his friends realized their full potential as influential non-violent transformational leaders.
“Youth and Non-violence” has been an integral part of SFCG’s effort to empower Guinea’s youth in a context of social crisis marked by significant political change and violent turmoil in Guinea. It came as the country was preparing its first democratic elections since its independence in 1958.
Thanks to trainings, capacity building in communication techniques, tailor-made radio programs and cultural festivals, Guinea’s urban youth gained awareness of their rights, civic responsibilities and non-violent conflict management techniques.
“After participating in the trainings, I realized the importance of finding an objective as a youth association by getting out of the streets and having a positive role in our community,” said a proud and smiling Aliou. “Our goal is to help foster a more peaceful and stable future for Kindia’s youth through music. Thanks to Search, we now have the tools to do so while still being as ‘boiling’ and dynamic as before in what we achieve.”
After organizing festivals to promote Kindia’s young artistic scene, members of Bouyan Bouyan Style decided to maximize the gains of their training by opening the first recording studio in Kindia. “This allowed us to keep our home-grown talents and role models local while spreading their messages of peace and social cohesion,” he explained.
But Bouyan Bouyan Style did not stop there. “Those messages of peace and social awareness needed to be heard by a wider public,” he concluded. So they opened the radio station Kaniazik FM to spread their music and message. The group also gives back to the community by training 15 unemployed youth in music production, radio management and media coverage.
Kaniazik FM has quickly become the most popular radio station among Kindia’s urban youth, and young leader Aliou Sagna could not be more proud.
Search for Common Ground continues to work with Kindia’s youth through the project, “On est ensemble” (We are together), to strengthen the capacity of key actors to facilitate reconciliation and social peace in Guinea.
Originally from Montreal, Canada, Benjamin Médam holds a Masters degree in International Security and Conflict Resolution from Sciences Po Paris. A passionate traveller, Benjamin has lived and worked in New York, Buenos Aires and Paris. He is currently an intern at Search for Common Ground Guinea, working on Monitoring and Evaluation and managing a project on youth protection from violent protests in Conakry.