By Grace Amme and Nicholas Wassajja
Drama ensued at Hotel Africana on Wednesday when the National Resistance Movement (NRM) youth wing secretary general, Robert Rutaro, referred to other political parties as “mere puppies that can be killed with one kick”.
Speaking at the forum as one of the panellists, Rutaro who was giving his closing remarks, did not see it coming that the audience would shut him down and ask him to withdraw the comments they referred to as disrespectful.
“Have you ever gone to visit a home and a small puppy barks at you, yet in your heart you know you can kill it with one kick…” Rutaro said sending the audience to chaos.
Sections of the audience led by the Makerere Guild speaker, Chark Benson silenced him shouting “stop” and others telling him to withdraw his statement and apologise.
Rutaro was responding to comments from the audience who called the NRM Party rotten and corrupt.
Gerald Siranda, the leader of Uganda Young Democrats (UYD), a youth political organization affiliated to the Democratic Party (DP) said, “We are not comfortable discussing youth engagement in political activities under this NRM regime that is rotten and very corrupt.”
Rutaro later withdrew his statements and attempted to continue with his discussion but the already charged youth could not let him continue forcing him to sit.
The panelist (left - right) Makerere University department of Political science Senior Lecturer Dr Simba Kayunga, Young leaders think tank Helen Okiring, National Resistance Movement Robert Rutaro, Justice Forum Shaban Kalema, People Progressive party Daniel Tulibagenyi, Young leaders think tank Bernard Mukhone, Young leaders think tank Ahmed Hadji and the moderator Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) programme Manager Yusuf Kiranda during a Public debate about Youth in Uganda Elections and how to unlock the potential of the many Youth at Hotel Africana Kampala on August 20, 2014. Photo by Tony Rujuta.
While speaking to the New Vision, Rutaro asserted that he meant just what he said. “I wanted these people to know that their parties are small and cannot compare to NRM,” he said.
Makerere University political science Don, Dr. Simba Kayunga, who was the keynote speaker at the forum rebuked Rutaro for his comments and encouraged that he respects other people’s opinions regardless of their differences.
“African culture desires that you respect other people irrespective of whether you have various beliefs. I think that statement was disrespectful,” Simba said.
The forum dubbed “Youth in Ugandan elections: how to unlock the potential of the many” was organized by Konrad -Adenauer -Stiftung, a German Political foundation to provide a platform for young people to engage in a discourse about how to get involved in campaigns and the entire electoral process.
Simba encouraged youth advocates to embrace modern campaign technology and techniques to persuade other youth to get involved in active politics.
He encouraged youth leaders to combine issues and entertainment as a framework to make elections attractive to the young people.
“Museveni caught the nation unaware with ‘another rap’, who did not see how that got him many votes from the youth? It was a small innovation but had a big impact,” Simba said.
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