By David Nangosi
While Uganda makes a political commitment to the international and regional treaties and conventions which call upon governments to ensure full,effective and meaningful participation in governance and development interventions, the implementation of the aforesaid legal framework presents an array of obstacles to meaningful and effective participation of youth with disabilities (YWDs) in electoral democracy.
I applaud the Electoral Commission (EC) for the work they are doing though more still needs to be done. The question though is whether there are adequate mechanisms for enabling YWDs to effectively participate in elections.
There are no mechanisms for mobilisation and engagement of YWDs coupled with the electoral materials that are insensitive to the needs of YWDs.
On the individual level, YWDs have little knowledge about the importance of elections since youth participation is motivated by entertainment and money which YWDs find hard to even access because of mobility or accessibility challenges. As a consequence, YWDs are excluded from the EC activities. EC has no deliberate efforts to mobilise already excluded YWDs.
In the previous elections, polling stations and election communication materials were inaccessible both physically and technologically to the visually impaired and those with mobility challenges. As of recent, representation of YWDs is structured through NUDIPU, an umbrella organisation for PWDs, which is not mandatory for all YWDs to subscribe to.
Therefore, there is a great need to promote the effective engagement of YWDs in Uganda’s democratic governance by promoting effective civic and voter education as a means of increased empowerment for YWDs and also promoting increased youth political participation both at national and regional levels.
Inclusive participation of all youth in their diversities in all electoral processes connotes to having a Youth MP for YWDs.
This is in fulfillment of Article 32 and 21 of the Constitution of Uganda, 1995 as amended on the basis of affirmative action, equality and freedom from discrimination and also Article 5 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
A person is not to be discriminated against on the basis of his or her disability. Uganda is to be based on democratic principles that encourage access to leadership positions. This has the implication of empowering and encouraging the active participation of all citizens at all levels in governance including YWDs.
Notwithstanding, the National Youth Council Act Chapter 319 in Part V provides for the election of youth representatives in Parliament. Section 15 in particular enacts that;
“The conference shall at its first meeting elect five representatives, at least two of whom shall be female, from the members of Council to represent the youth in Parliament”
It is a high time that an MP for YWDs is considered to be elected from the five representatives as per the aforementioned provisions on the basis of affirmative action.
Since the election of the youth MPs started, no effort has been made to consider election of an MP for YWDs whereas female youths have had their MPs being elected. So why are YWDs left out yet they too are the subject of affirmative action?
Election of the MP for YWDs will help to provide a unified and integrated system through which YWDs will communicate and coordinate their ideas and activities, establish channels through which economic, social services and amenities will reach other YWDs in all areas of Uganda.
Also, it will encourage YWDs to make informed decisions and hold their leaders accountable, organise other YWDs in Uganda for progressive change, provide a unified and integrated system through which YWDs may communicate and coordinate their ideas and activities.
In addition, it will also encourage YWDs to consolidate their role in national development in the economic, social, cultural and educational fields, inter-alia. In light to the above, I urge the EC to make the Road Map for 2016 disability inclusive.
The writer is a lawyer and a disability rights activist