Youth structures are financially starved- survey  

Bukoto South MP Richard Ssebamala speaking during the discussion on youth inclusion in Uganda's political governance on December 8, 2023. PHOTO | ROLAND NASASIRA

What you need to know:

  • Mr Richard Ssebamala, the MP for Bukoto South, advised the youth to understand the political space in which they operate but also look for the cheapest options to work through particular issues.

A survey titled “Youth inclusion in Uganda’s political governance” has revealed that the structures representing, functioning and working for the youth are financially starved.

While making his keynote address in Kampala on Friday, Mr Sebastian Rwengabo, a political scientist and independent consultant noted that even with constitutional, legal and regulatory provisions or rules on youth structures at local council one (LC1), LC11, LC111 and LCV and at national level, the state of youth inclusion in Uganda’s governance is full of contradictions.

“The functionality of structures representing, functioning and working for the youth leaves a lot to be desired. There is no technical structure or competence for making sure that the sub county youth council is functional. There is no funding, no community psychologist, no teenage counsellor, and no business development advisor to make sure that they regularly and periodically interact with the youth and stop them from engaging into drug and substance abuse and other unproductive behaviour. There’s no one responsible for youth at the sub county other than the chairperson on the committee for youth who lacks resources to visit one parish in a financial year,” Mr Rwengabo said.

When it comes to exclusion by presence, the survey revealed that the youth occupy positions without power yet Article 1 of Uganda’s Constitution says all power belongs to the people that participate in regular free and fair elections to decide on who represents them.

Mr Mondo Kyateka, the Commissioner for children and youth affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, said when it comes to youth and leadership in Uganda from the local government to Parliament, the average age of Members of Parliament in the eleventh parliament is 42. He revealed that the youngest MP in the eleventh parliament is 26 years, while those below 50 are 323 and those above 50 years are 234. For comparative analysis, the average age in the tenth parliament was 53 years while those under 35 were seven.  

“We need to invest more in young people’s economic muscle. If we empower them economically, they are able to compete with those that have adequate resources so that they can have levelled political grounds. Politics has become extremely commercialised that even parents are giving money to their children to contest for leadership in their schools,” Mr Kyateka said.

Mr Kyateka also noted that in facilitating inclusive frameworks to ensure inclusion of everybody in the development process, there must be intentional strategic interventions aimed at providing a levelled ground. 

It should also be noted that Uganda was the first country in East and Central Africa to include in the constitution deliberate provision for representation of young people in Parliament. Much as the youth form the biggest percentage of the country’s population, they are only represented by five youth MPs, each region with one MP.   

During the meeting, Mr Richard Ssebamala, the MP for Bukoto South, advised the youth to understand the political space in which they operate but also look for the cheapest options to work through particular issues.

“As a youth, the luxury you have is that you are still young to experiment and think across different platforms of the options you have to navigate through a particular problem. If it is money, will you work hard to get it? Will you table an idea to someone to fund it and you partner with them? If you don’t have the money but you want to contest for a position, go door to door in your constituency. It is tedious but gather the courage and energy to do it because it is your non-monetary capital,” Mr Ssebamala advised.

On his part, Mr Primus Atukwase Bahiigi, the Country Director for the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD), said the journey of youth in Ugandan politics is marked by both promise and predicament. He noted that the prevalence of independent MPs underscores a broader challenge, balancing individual representation with the collective goals of political parties. 

“For the youth, this challenge is further compounded by barriers to entry, limited access to resources, and the need for innovative strategies to navigate traditional political structures. As we navigate these challenges, it becomes evident that youth engagement is not merely about securing a seat at the table but actively contributing to the decision-making process,” Mr Bahiigi said.