Last week, a coalition of youth groups launched a series of debates aimed at addressing issues affecting the youth as the country prepares for the February 18 general election. These debates are instructive, coming at a time when candidates running for political office are campaigning across the country ahead of next month’s polls.
As the candidates, especially those vying for presidency, sell their manifestos; they ought to be reminded that their policies and development plans should incorporate the views of all Ugandans. That is the only way we can achieve equitable development. Beyond promises made at campaign rallies, presidential candidates should take deliberate efforts to listen to ordinary Ugandans. More importantly, they should pay keen attention to the ‘citizens’ manifestos’ that have been launched by different groups.
So far, three groups have launched ‘citizens’ manifestos’, all of which highlight fundamental issues affecting Ugandans. In September last year, the Youth Coalition on Electoral Democracy in Uganda, a body that brings together 120 youth organisations and individuals, launched a Youth Manifesto (2016-2021). The purpose is to market the issues in the manifesto to political parties so that youth issues are given adequate attention.
The youth debate was, therefore, a positive follow-up to the youth manifesto because it offers a platform through which young people can probe politicians and the promises they make. It is also laudable that representatives of various presidential candidates participated in the debate. But attending the debate is not enough. They should take the issues raised by the youth, key among which are unemployment, education, healthcare, sports and creative arts, to their political parties and ensure these issues are addressed by the party that forms the next government.
Similarly, late last year, civil society organisations launched the Citizens Manifesto 2016-2021, a document that has been distributed to all political parties. Like the youth manifesto, it contains key issues that Ugandans want their leaders to prioritise, including flaws in governance, corruption, and service delivery. The Women’s Manifesto 2016-2021, also launched last year, is another useful document political parties should acquaint themselves with. It highlights five major demands – health, land and property rights, education, economic empowerment, politics and decision-making – that are critical in achieving gender equality and empowerment for women.
These citizens’ manifestos are important because they have been produced after wide consultations countrywide. Besides, they highlight issues that are critical to Uganda’s development. We implore political parties to pay attention to the people’s views.