By Mary Karooro Okurut
WHEN President Museveni took to the stage at Lugogo Cricket Oval on October 23, most people expected him to do the usualâ€”deliver something akin to a long state of the nation address, and maybe focus on his campaign promises to the young people. After all it was a youth rally.
But the President took everyone by surprise when he turned rapper; teeing away at an old Kinyankore folk chant Mpâ€™enkoni and Natema akati karara (meaning â€˜give me a stickâ€™ and â€˜I cut a small stick and it went placesâ€™, respectively).
It is one of those chants that many Banyankore have always known, but not even the local music superstars had ever thought it could be repackaged in a modern fashion and literally cause an earthquake. The uproar that followed the â€˜shock and aweâ€™ was incredible. This was certainly from the top drawer; and completely unexpected. One of those things that ensure that a candidate remains attractive at all times because he always has a surprise in store; the brilliant actor that never follows the script.
If anyone had entertained any doubts about Yoweri Museveni's ability to connect with the youth; the sensational rap put paid to all such doubt. And for the young people this was an excellent bridge-gap that reassured them that albeit in his mid-60s, Mzee is still young at heart and perfectly understands their way of life.
Anybody who had thought that the youth would jump off the NRM bus just because the President is out of touch with them, must now cook up or conjure something else, because the reaction of the young people and the way they interacted freely with the President confirmed they are going nowhere. Most of them are what is now called â€˜the Museveni kidsâ€™ because they were born from 1986 onwards, when the NRM was in power, and this is the only president they have known. More importantly though, is the fact that beyond the rap, the President not only understands the young people's taste, but also their needs. Nearly 60% of Ugandans are young people; which means that not only is their vote critical, but their needs cannot and must not be ignored.
Most of them are unemployed, to the tune of at least 40%. And of those that are employed, only half are gainfully so, the rest being either under-employed or in what is termed as disguised unemployment. This makes the youth both vulnerable but also outright dangerous; because negative forces can take advantage of their helplessness to misdirect their energies into criminal activity and stuff connected therewith. Flipping through the NRM manifesto which Candidate Museveni launched yesterday, one of the highlights is the excellent package that NRM has for the youth.
The first is the Youth Enterprise Start-up Fund; in which the NRM Government intends to provide start-up capital to youth entrepreneurs on concessional terms. This means first that they will not be required to have collateral. Secondly, that the interest rates will be low, the pay-back period extended and the grace period within which to start paying back will also be reasonable. But unlike previous schemes where errors of strategy were occasioned by giving capital to people who lack the basic knowledge and skills of how to use it, this fund shall be accessed by youths of all levels of formal education only after they have undertaken the relevant business and managerial skills development. In this regard, Enterprise Uganda will set up five regional skills development centres that will provide the young people all over the country with training in entrepreneurship and business development skills.
Furthermore, in order to help the youthpenetrate the market and make them more competitive and sustainable in the business world, large companies shall be given special incentives when they give business to youth-owned enterprises. Also, youth-owned enterprises will be given preferential treatment when supplying government departments.
The NRM government also plans to encourage and secure internship for the youth at various tertiary institutions. At a time when it is increasingly becoming more and more difficult for students to get internship opportunities without a hassle, this initiative comes in just at the right time. For artisan groups such as motor vehicle mechanics, carpenters and metal fabricators, the NRM government will provide sheltered and serviced work places; a huge change from working under trees or under the hot sun (jua kali) or simply by the roadside. For good measure, these places will also be provided with common user tools and equipment.
And every time â€˜you want another rapâ€™ is played, for the youth it will be a reminder that their President remains one of them and understands exactly who they are and what they need.