The stake of youth in the coming elections

Jul 16, 2015

Youth in Uganda are the youngest population in the world, with 77% of its population being under 30 years of age.

By Sam Mucunguzi

Youth in Uganda are the youngest population in the world, with 77% of its population being under 30 years of age. There are 7,310,386 youth from the ages of 15–24 years of age living in Uganda. (Population Action International)

This raises concerns. Youth power is a recognised force in the world today.

With tremendous energy and towering ambitions, they can be manipulated as a constructive or negative force by any nation. During the eighties, youth power made itself prominent in many socialist countries of Europe and in China. Tianamen Square in Beijing, China was a demonstration of youth resolve, as thousands of Chinese youth sacrificed their lives in an attempt to bring democracy in that autocratic State.

Political forces, world over, use the youth power to promote their interests. During the riots against the Mandal Commission in India, thousands of college students agitated in the streets of the cities. Many of them committed self-immolation. Unfortunately, a large number of these youths have no clear path for their future. It is dangerous to allow them to remain idle as it might increase their frustration which can be a recipe for   chaos and violence.

In Uganda, the tempo of politics is raising tempers as we count down to the much anticipated general elections. The youth comprise a big percentage in Uganda and, therefore, one would assume that they possess a concomitant voice in shaping the future of our leadership. Many politicians enjoy using the youth to fight or advance their political agenda because of their vulnerability and physical energy and probable lack of focus.

What is it that makes a Ugandan youth belong to a certain political party? Do they ever take time to read through the political party manifesto if they can access them, or they wait for the leaders to preach to them what they want them to hear and do?

In politics, we have seen young people being used to either participate in demonstrations, fight battles for political groups and undermining opponents.

Our leaders should take caution not to lure these young men and women into their battle fields, baptising them with all the hate and then jump out after accelerating the wagon leaving them to crush. Take a look at the well-known case of the ruling NRM ‘rebel MPs’.

After rolling in the mud with the ruling party and capturing the imagination of the youths, they are back to their cradle as was reported in the media , statements like Ssekikubo’s “I have taken quite some time without coming to this place, but my presence symbolises the support and love of people of Lwemiyaga Constituency to you. Your Excellency, stand firm, for me, I am behind you and in full support of you to stay around”  to President Museveni. 

Another youth group defected from opposition to NRM and as they were received by the NRM party treasurer, they confessed that they have been causing mayhem in city demonstrations, which I believe is a good start for the Police to investigate their agenda and criminal acts. The mock death and burial demonstrations in Gulu of Amama Mbabazi led by Odonga Otto, was a clear misuse of youth efforts in un productive and demeaning activity, had Otto thought about if such monies and efforts were turned into a wealth creation skills sessions the involved young men would have had A chance to transform their lives.

It is not very difficult to mobilise the youth for nation- building tasks provided that one has the requisite honesty, intelligence and leadership. Once they are genuinely involved, their interest in constructive work would be aroused. They would be prepared to work sincerely for the welfare of the country.

A lot is yet to be witnessed but youth should use their conscience to desist from being used, as many will be caught up the law and waste their young lives in prisons, we can change leadership, transit to another level without necessarily leaving any one behind if we participate in democratic political processes that are in place, our stake is to participate in voting, are not leaving the processes to change miraculous, in politics miracles don’t happen, they are created, stand out vote and be counted.

Unfortunately, a large number of these are without proper guidelines about their futures. It is dangerous to allow them to remain idle as it would increase their frustration which would result in chaos and disturbances.

It is a great national wastage of human resources if these strong hands are not allocated some suitable jobs. The leadership needs to question whether Uganda can afford it

Instead of turning our youth into tools for politicking, our leaders are better advised to instead think about turning their raw talent to transformative tasks and skills that are income generating, taxable and meaningful.  Such a step would satisfy to give them a sense of belongingness and would keep them involved in constructive jobs.

The writer is the programme assistant with the Tripartite Initiative for Resource governace Africa (TIRGA)

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