By Henry Sekanjako
As Uganda joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Labour Day, a group of youth activists demonstrated what they called increased youth unemployment in the country.
However, their planned activities were cut short after police bumped into their news conference at Pan African Square unawares.
Before the intervention of the police, the youth carried several placards, with messages like ‘Labour laws should be operationalized in Uganda’ and ‘A minimum wage is very much a necessity in Uganda’.
But the demonstrators were forced into full flight, leaving behind their written messages and chairs, when they were ambushed by security operatives.
The Police say they were not informed of the meeting beforehand.
Captain Sam Lubega, one of the city security officers, said: “They never informed us about their demonstration and meeting here. When I asked one of the organizers, they told me they had written to the commander of Kampala Metropolitan Police but when we asked him he said he was not aware.”
After noticing that police had started trickling in, the youth led by youth human rights activist Andrew Karamagi started fleeing the venue one by one and by the time police took control of the area, all the youth had disappeared.
Police later ‘arrested’ the chairs and placards left behind the fleeing youths, and bundled them onto a police patrol vehicle.
The group of activists had started their demonstration in Busega, three miles out of the city centre, riding bicycles.
To them, using bicycles was a symbol of the poverty many young Ugandans face.
The police loaded the chairs left behind by the dispersed youth activists. PHOTO/Roderick Ahimbazwe
According to Karamagi, the youth from the NRM, the opposition and the civil society organizations had come together to demonstrate the high levels of unemployment among youth, saying there was no need for them to celebrate the Labour Day.
“Unemployment has far-reaching effects and is indeed a matter of national security. We must all treat it with the urgency it deserves,” he said.
“Every young man and woman must make contributions towards this most pertinent effort.”
His fellow activist spoke of how “government has not done enough to create for us jobs”, arguing that jobs should be availed to both educated and uneducated youth.
His called to government was to ensure that the newly introduced youth program is handled well to avoid politicians from using it for political gains.
Currently, youth unemployment in Uganda is at 83% for both educated and uneducated youth. The nation’s youth population stands at 78%.