The newly elected Youth Members of Parliament have asked President Museveni to involve young people in pivotal government programmes.
In their premier joint press conference since their election on February 1, the Youth MP-elects said the move would stop the youth from defecting to the Opposition (See story ‘MPs task govt to address issues facing youth, Daily Monitor, February 10).
They decried that while the NRM won majority seats in Parliament, including all the Youth MP seats, the issues affecting the youth have not been paid attention to.
We welcome the MPs concerns, including the fact that while the ruling NRM government has in the past introduced income-generating programmes for the youth, their leaders are rarely involved in the implementation process. In the end, the resources get misappropriated.
Nevertheless, the MPs-elect seem to be catching the stick from the wrong end. For instance, they shoot themselves in the foot when they seek youth participation in key government programmes for purposes of swaying the youth to join NRM instead of being in bed with the Opposition.
But the MPs and other leaders who think like them, should know that Uganda is aspiring to be a democracy.
Leaders should be deliberate and ensure that the Opposition has as much space as their counterparts in government to grow since they too are Ugandans.
The dismal performance of government programmes in the past the MPs seem to refer to was, perhaps due to failure to appreciate this fact.
Besides, the MPs were conspicuously silent about the commercialisation of politics. Part of the challenges hindering youth participation in national activities, including politics, is the monetisation of politics.
For instance, to stand for an MP slot in the recent election, you were required to pay Shs3m, and for president, Shs20m. Many youth do not have that kind of money to contest for either of the political positions, even when they are laden with ideas?
There were even claims that some of the youth MPs-elect only managed to scrape through to victory owing to their superior financial muscle. Therefore, Youth MPs should prioritise abolition of use of money by the haves to disadvantage the have-nots, who may have superior plans for their voters and the country.
Most important, the youth should endeavour to think outside the box and avoid the path of thinking that all youth should belong to one political kraal, whether in government or Opposition. In a democracy, divergent ideas should be allowed to compete in the political market place, in a free and fair environment and let the best sale take the day.