Youths Concerned with ‘Insignificant’ Political Participation


Africa is considered to have the biggest population of young people but statistics further reveal that Uganda has the second biggest demographic of this according to UN statistics.

An estimated 78% of the total population are below the age of 30.

However, information pills young people argue that these figures have not yet translated into meaningful participation especially when it comes to political activity.

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In a dialogue organized by the French Embassy in Uganda at Makerere University on Wednesday, clinic youths criticized the political structures in Uganda and France for not creating a platform where they can contribute their ideas to inform the decision making process.

The discussion was part of a series of events to mark the Uganda – France Friendship Week.

Isabella Akiteng, what is ed the Program Officer Policy Advocacy and Engagement at Uganda Youth Network said that although there is existent youth representation within the political spheres, it is yet to be meaningful. She said that the old folk of political players have sustained a misconstrued perception that young age is synonymous with incompetence which in her view isn’t correct.

“If you have a program like the Youth Livelihood Program and it is patented by an individual not government, this will have implications on the youth.” Akiteng who was a panelist in the discussion said.

“Participation of the young people is legislation, policy and rule of law. We have seen the local government budget dwindle against that of the central government yet decentralization works for the citizen who in this case is the youth (majority),” Akiteng added.

She opposed the idea of limiting youth political participation to casting a ballot saying young people can contribute through several ways including engaging in public debate and community work.

“Most of our political parties have youth wings but these youths don’t influence the direction that the party takes. The way youths behave today is because the government has failed on its role of nurturing them.”

Similary, Coudray Stevie, a French national and political science student at the University of Paris decried the gap between the young and old within the French political system. For this reason, he said, majority of the young people in France do not take part in voting.

“Our politics in France are segregated against the youth. The old folk keep claiming we lack experience. But this is wrong and it needs to change,” Stevie said.

For quite some time, young people’s role in politics has been reduced to mobilizing support for the established politicians in exchange for handouts.

The increasing commercial nature of today’s politics is another factor that works in favor of the wealthy, majority of who don’t fall in the youth bracket.

Akiteng argues that the ‘greed’ exhibited by young Ugandans in politics is a result of “being pushed to the corner” by the system.

She however advises young people to equip themselves with information which she says is the only leverage they have if they are to negotiate for a seat on the political table.

According to Ivan Rugambwa a young political commentator who works with Léo Africa Institute, Uganda’s youth represent not only the majority but also new ideas and energy.

Makerere University historian Prof. Mwambusya Ndebesa challenged youth to be more active in engaging in public affairs and to desist from being used by politicians for their own ideologies.

“Young people are not participating but rather they are being participated,” he said.

The debate on young people taking up positions in Uganda’s politics has been going on for a long time.

Young people say government is crowded with a class of over aged politicians most who are not ready to relinquish their positions. Most of these were part of the 1980s armed struggle that brought the ruling NRM party into power.

In 2005, Parliament voted overwhelmingly in support of abolishing the two term (10 years) limit for a sitting President. Currently, the constitution provides that a President cannot rule beyond the age of 75 but in 2016, the NRM caucus passed a resolution to have this age limit scrapped.

If passed by Parliament, it would further narrow chances of young people to take a short at the Presidency.


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