Thought and Ideas
DP targets youth to increase membership
Posted Sunday, February 17 2013 at 02:23
Democratic Party youth activist and Kampala Capital City Authority Councillor Bernard Luyiga was recently appointed by party president Norbert Mao to coordinate fellow youth across the country and Diaspora in a bid to have more young blood in DP. John Tugume interviewed Mr Luyiga on his plans of enrolling more young democrats.
1. What do you think inspired Mr Mao to appoint you in charge of such a big docket?
Mr Mao has tested me in the past. He has seen my mobilization skills at Makerere, where the Uganda Young Democrats is more vibrant than anywhere else. The years I have spent at Makerere University, both as a student and later as councillor, have put me at the forefront to deal with young leaders there and coordinate youth leaders in other institutions. Mr Mao was guild president at Makerere and we’ve had several other democrats on top of other higher institutions of learning. My involvement in all these students’ affairs have enabled me mature into a more focused person, and I think, Mr Mao based on that to appoint me as his special envoy.
2. How are you prepared for this assignment, given the long-running battles between the youth in opposition and arms of government like the police and the army?
I know they will beat us, or even imprison us. But that will not stop me from doing my work of enrolling more democrats and pushing for democracy in the country. I predict a very tough tenure, especially in the initial stages. This is because, I envisage a situation where by government will use its mercenaries to block my activities. But I am prepared to take the bull by the horns.
Even when you look at other countries, democracy is not cheap to come by and in the process of fighting for freedom; some colleagues are lost along the way. That is why we have heroes. But at the end of the road, when democracy is achieved, the entire country will be happy. Since I am not a criminal, or someone who is planning to break the laws, hope the police or even the army will not interfere with my work. If someone demonstrates, is he or she really a criminal? No. they should let us be. Even when you look at the concerns the youth demonstrate for, aren’t they genuine concerns?
3. What goals do you want to achieve as DP youth and what will be your strategy?
Well, my major target will be students; therefore we shall be reaching out to all universities in the country and other higher institutions of learning. During the last general elections, my president, Mr Mao, came up with an agenda – Uganda Before 40 (UB40) – and it sold a lot among the youth. It is an agenda that we want to pursue further. Students play a very big role in the development of a country. Look at countries like the Great Britain, the US, German, students in tertiary institutions contribute greatly to these economies, through advocacy and practical means. But here in Uganda, they are marginalised, even when they try to air out their voices, no one bothers to listen.
So we are aiming at having pro-active student leaderships everywhere, which can in the end lead to national development. You know very well that university is about research. We want to encourage these students to make their researches known or even taken up by the government. If we have issues like corruption, oil mismanagement, students can carry out good research to solve them.
As you know politics is all about competition. I don’t want to reveal my strategy to fellow competitors. So I have them in my closet, I will be releasing one-by-one at a time. But basically it will be about mobilisation. So the better skills you have the more people you convince to join the party or participate in party activities.
4. Are you going to work with youth from other opposition parties?
In my mandate, I was appointed and I was given terms of reference by my president. I am supposed to recruit more youth into DP – the most ideal party – I mean DP is a party whose ideals resonate with the common man. I have tried to look at other parties and what they stand for.
Us in DP, we stand for truth and justice. So we want to explain the ideals of DP to young people, without conflicting with other political parties. These young people, especially in higher institutions of learning, will go back to their villages and explain the same ideals to their parents, neighbours etc, that way, we shall be recruiting more members. But we shall also reach out to youth in other organisations because we have a similar cause. Where we disagree, I will move on.
5. There are widespread allegations that the party is on drip, riddled by tribalism, lack of finances, failed to grow beyond Buganda, UYD, which was the strongest youth wing in the country is dead…
The party is not on drip, in fact its just progressing positively and that is why there was an increment in political representation in Parliament. We now have about 15 DP MPs.
Its a misrepresentation to allege that the party is riddled with tribalism. That’s why the president of the party is not a Muganda, but a northerner. DP is the only opposition party that has structures nationwide, right from the grassroots. Its a fact we do not have finances, its a big challenge, but we are currently formulating a 10-year strategic plan, including strategies to mobilise resources. True, we had some challenges in the youth wing emanating from the fact that it had taken long for leaders to hand over to young people. But we have currently overcome such because the outgoing youth leaders have accepted to handover to the young blood. And this explains the current vibrancy of the youth wing in terms of activism, for example, recent demos against corruption in OPM, birth day party for the President etc where many of our youths have been arrested and tortured for a noble cause.
6. DP no longer dominates MUK students politics, the youth have allegedly been bribed into NRM, so many spies and FDC youth wing is full of former DP members. What do you have to say?
The current Guild President at Makerere, Mr Ivan Kata, is DP and for the last 10 years I have been a councillor there, DP has got eight out of 10 guild presidents.
Its not only DP whose youths are being bribed, even other opposition parties have the same challenge. NRM has a bit of harvesting where they have not sown, and they use the advantage of financial muscle to lure the young people. But no matter how much they bribe the young people, using taxpayer’s money, the current NRM government can no longer hold on the mantle of leadership and very soon, it will collapse. Lastly, DP is not a prison. There is freedom of entry and exit. many have exited, but thousands have joined. So, as a party, we ideologically believe that people are free to join political parties of their choice.
7. How will you be reaching out to the people in the Diaspora?
I have already started getting invites. So people are happy about my appointment. Others are saying it was long overdue. We shall definitely need to know how other youth are performing in other countries, so that we can borrow a leaf.
Where there is need, we shall be making trips to meet our brothers and sisters in overseas countries – as long as the government doesn’t say we had gone to meet potential rebel leaders who are planning to topple the government. And mind you, there are no privileges, no payroll. Its mere commitment, we want to serve the party. We shall have to sacrifice our personal resources, and I, personally, will do it because I love the party.