By Kieran Guilbert
DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Power-hungry politicians are the main driver of conflicts across Africa and leaders are not doing enough to stop the violence, according to tens of thousands of young Africans polled by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Up to 86,000 Africans from Cameroon to Central African Republic and Mali to Nigeria took part in the survey via their mobile phones. The poll targeted people aged between 15 and 30 for their views on the continent's conflicts and crises.
"It is so crucial, and even urgent for the leaders to heed the voices of the youth, if we are to silence the guns," said African Union Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma in a statement responding to the UNICEF poll findings.
Two in three of those who responded to the multiple choice questions sent by text message said African heads of state must do more to end conflicts, while more than half cited politicians fighting for power as the main cause of unrest, UNICEF found.
Respondents said having a strong economy, having a more independent foreign policy and investing in education were the best ways for leaders to stop conflicts, according to the survey published on Thursday on the annual Day of the African Child.
"The conflict in Central African Republic (CAR) is rooted in frustration and the mismanagement of public affairs," 17-year-old Davilla Andjidakpa, a student from CAR's Ouaka region, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The country spiralled into crisis in early 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka fighters toppled the then president. Christian militias responded by attacking the Muslim minority.
A fifth of the population fled their homes due to violence and the country remains largely divided along religious lines and controlled by warlords, but experts hope the recent election of President Faustin-Archange Touadera will help end the unrest.
"Regarding the state's reaction, I am already encouraged by the political will they have shown to play the card of peace," said Yann Ningatoloum, a 23-year-old student from CAR's capital Bangui.
"This approach is especially effective if there is to be a gradual return to calm and restraint," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation after responding to the UNICEF survey.
The results of surveys carried out by the messaging service, known as U-Report, are collected and mapped out online, so that the results can be shared with the community, UNICEF said.
(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Katie Nguyen; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)