Youth Participation in Uganda’s democratic process

As Ugandans prepare for the 2016 general elections, over 300 youth have been trained on their obligation to champion a credible, peaceful, free and fair election. This was during the 3rd Annual National Youth conference held for two days (26th -27th June 2016) at Makerere University under a theme: 2016 and Beyond; Young People for Credible and Peaceful Election Experience.

This Conference has happened at a defining moment in Uganda’s democratic and governance trajectory whereby in a less than a year, Uganda will hold its 3rd general elections under a multiparty political dispensation. The elections are happening at a time when the country has released results of the 2014 census revealing that 6.4 million Ugandans out of the population of 34.5 are young people aged 18-30. This therefore implies that 6.4 million youth represents close to half of the voting age population in 2016. The Electoral Commission indicated a total of over 13 million Ugandans who are eligible to vote. In light of the above, the involvement of young people in determining the credibility, peacefulness and eventual outcome of the 2016 general elections cannot be under-estimated.

Convening in the Makerere University Livingstone Hall, the youth were advised to give maximum attention to the ethical values in preparation for the electoral period and the entire process in order to harness the optimism and mobilisation of youth against the possibility of challenges associated with youth contestation in the framework of the forthcoming elections.

The Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hon. Muruli Mukasa delivered the key note speech entitled: “In what ways can young people escape the possibility of electoral violence? What is the role of young people in championing a credible, peaceful, free and fair election?”

Hon. Muruli Mukasa advised participants to always uphold the national ethical values in order to have a peaceful, harmonious and stable country.

“Respect for humanity, honesty, justice and fairness, hard work, integrity, creativity and innovation social responsibility, national unity as well as patriotism. If you have these values regardless of where you come from, we shall be good Ugandans who appreciate one another,” the Minister emphasized.

The Executive Secretary-University Forum on Governance (UNIFOG), Mr. Bruce Kabaasa informed the participants that the National Youth Conference was aimed at building synergy with the National Youth Manifesto Process 2016-2021, increasing youth participation in the 2016 elections, training the youth on civic and voter interventions by the Central Government, and mobilising the youth for peaceful, free and fair elections.

 “The conference is a youth to youth unique platform that brings together youth leaders from institutions of higher learning, political parties, civil society, the National Youth Council and from the formal sector to mutually deliberate and harmonise recommendations and actions for structured and meaningful social and political engagements and this year, the conference brings on board the  Centre for Constitutional Governance (CCG) and Uganda Youth Network (UYONET) to synergize empowerment to facilitate credible and peaceful elections in 2016 and beyond,” he said.

Mr Kabaasa added that the Annual National Youth Conference and the National Youth Manifesto were consistent with the national laws and development priorities, with full respect for the various political and ethical values of Ugandan youth, and in conformity with universally international democratic governance instruments and provisions.

The Programme Officer Policy Advocacy and Engagement, Uganda Youth Network (UYONET) Ms. Isabella Akiteng, applauded the organisers of the Annual National Youth Conference namely the University Forum on Governance (UNIFOG), Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG) and Uganda Youth Network (UYONET) for organising a conference that brings together  the country’s influential young people in governance, civil society and academia to engage in social and political development discourses with recommendations and actions intended to enhance the quality of the youth participation in the ongoing development and governance processes.

During the two day conference, the youth participated in various discussions aimed at ensuring that they are agents for a credible, peaceful, free and fair election before, during, and after.

Some of the discussants/presenters included: Dr. Elijah Mushemeza- Professor of Political Science; Ms. Sarah Bireete -the Director of Programme CCG; Mr. Jude Mbabali- President Uganda Catholic Lawyers;  Mr. Andrew Karamagi- Program Officer HURIPEC;  Ms. Clare Seremba -Young Leaders Think Tank for Policy Alternatives; Mr. Nicholas OPio- -Executive Director, Chapter Four; Mr. Muleterwa Edward- Police Commissioner for Community Liaison;  Mr. Joseph Munyangabo-Technical Advisor IRI;  Mr. Jacob Eyeru-EAC Ambassador for Youth.

During the two days Annual Youth Conference, the youth highlighted the following expectations:

  • The Government, development partners and the youth stakeholders should consider youth as equal partners and not mere participants in the National and governance processes in the country

  • The Government should commit to the aspirations of the National Youth Manifesto as a social contract between the youth as rights holders and the government as the duty bearer.

  • The political parties should honour the Youth Manifesto  by committing to the demands in their party policy platforms and manifestos ahead of the 2016 general elections

  • Leaders of political parties and aspiring candidates should desist from individual and egoistic interests that risk threatening the modest gains made across the political, social and economic spheres over the last 30 years

  • Institutions should ensure credible, free and peaceful elections to ensure they stick to their Constitutional development partners to empower them to be conflict averters and play the role of peace-builders and mandate in a non-partisan manner

Emphasizing the need for young people to escape the possibility of electoral violence, the KAS Country Representative-Mr. Mathias Kamp advised the youth to stop the idea of solving conflicts through violence.

 “As a political scientist, I talk about conflict as something that is necessary in order to reach results and decisions more so in a democratic system. If there is no conflict between different interests, it means we are all moving in the same direction hence there will be no vibrancy and democracy in our discussions. People should be willing to compromise in order to overcome conflict matters,” Mr Kamp explained.

Participants through the Former Guild President of Gulu University Ogwetta Adrew Otto, extended their sincere gratitude to the conference organisers. “The two days that we have been here can be counted, the number of developmental partners that support this conference can be counted, the number of youth who have been here can be counted but the sacrifices that have been pinched to organise this event shall never be counted and the youth shall forever be grateful for all this.”

He added: “Despite the discussions leaning so much towards the politics of this country, I think it is time that this generation has come to appreciate the task and mission ahead of them. We receive 2016 especially for Uganda an opportune gift for the youth and we promise not to abuse this gift. We have been challenged to be more active in championing a peaceful process of election and transition of this great nation.”

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