By Taddeo Bwambale
KAMPALA - African youth must resist false ideas to prevent conflict that has plagued the continent, President Yoweri Museveni has warned.
“The biggest problem Africa has had for a long time is pseudo-ideology,” Museveni told youth at the 2nd convention of the Great Lakes Students’ Union at Makerere University on Saturday.
The convention brought together past and present student leaders from universities in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi.
The packed session held inside Makerere’s Main Hall also drew attendance from students’ associations from Nigeria, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“The chaos that Uganda in between 1966 and 1986 where 800,000 people were killed in violence and all the conflict in Somalia, South Sudan and DRC revolves around one word: pseudo ideology,” Museveni asserted.
He likened false ideas to incorrect diagnosis of illness by a doctor, leading to wrong prescription and death. “If people believe in witchcraft, instead of looking for germs or plasmodium which cause illness, they will say one has been bewitched,” he noted.
Museveni explained that false ideology was manifested through sectarianism based on tribe, religion and gender chauvinism.
Museveni chats with some of the members of The Great Lakes Students' Union. PHOTO/Abu Mwesigwa
The President took off time to mingle with the students. PHOTO/Abu Mwesigwa
Citing his own tribe of cattle keepers-the Banyankole, he said they have been able to prosper by selling milk, beef, bananas, coffee and tea by selling to other communities of Uganda and at regional and international markets.
“If I started a campaign to identify myself with Banyankole, in whose interest would I be serving? I would be a parasite,” he stated. “My interest is in Uganda, East Africa, Africa and friends from afar.”
Museveni castigated the divisions based on religion noting that the relationship between religious denominations was ‘symbiotic.’
“Muslims are the ones who slaughter our cows. Without Muslims, we would not sell our meat. Our relationship is symbiotic,” he explained.
“For someone to say that there is a problem because somebody is praying while facing Mecca while another prays while looking down, that is idiocy.”
He narrated how he blocked a riot by Muslim youth in Kawempe who were protesting that individuals had slaughtered a pig in their neighbourhood.
“I told the late Eriya Kategaya [then minister for internal affairs] that I don’t want to hear about a pig in someone’s stomach. I opposed that ‘rubbish’ (radicalism) that our youth had learnt from the Middle East,” Museveni said.
The President displays his award as Makerere Vice Chancellor Ddumba Ssentamu (left), Union patron Elly Tumwine (middle) and Chairman David Lewis look on. PHOTO/Abu Mwesigwa
“I told Omar Bashir [Sudan’s President] the same thing; I don’t mind what is inside you, I just shake your hand. In our African tribes, what you don’t like, you keep it to yourself instead of imposing it on others. We must work for the common group and ignore idiosyncrasies.”
The President decried discrimination against women, singling out religions for keeping women at lower echelons of power.
“Some religions can’t allow women to be priests or sheikhs. But for us in NRM, we know the value of women. A woman can do anything a man does, except for specialist roles.”
Museveni explained that without genuine ideology, it was difficult to build a country’s institutions such as the army or achieve economic development.
He advised youth leaders to shape their union on patriotism, Pan-African values and modernisation.
Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof John Ddumba Ssentamu appealed to Government to support youth to be innovative and productive, since they form 80% of Uganda’s population.
He hailed the President for endorsing the students’ loan scheme and funding the university’s innovation and research programmes.
Here, the President chats with the group that sang the anthems during the convention on Saturday. PHOTO/Abu Mwesigwa
The patron of the student’ union, Gen Elly Tumwine challenged youth leaders to become agents of change by generating ideas to find solutions to common challenges.
David Lewis, the President of the students’ union said its membership had grown to over 5,000 from the region.
He noted that allowing youth to meet and discuss matters affecting was an ideal way to lure them away from taking part in violence and terrorism that is prevalent in many African states.
The youth condemned the recent kidnap of over 200 Nigerian school girls by the Islamist Boko Haram militants.
The Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura and UPDF spokesperson, Col Paddy Ankunda were attended the convention.