The newly elected Speaker of youth parliament, Mr. Allan Arinawe conducting the session

GULU-UGANDA: On Wednesday, August 12, 2020, Uganda joined the rest of the International Community in celebrating the International Youth Day. Uganda marked it when political players are busy preparing for elections in which the opposition parties are vying to replace seasoned Mr. Museveni, who has ruled the tiny country with an iron hand since 1986 un- interrupted. The election is slated to take place in February 2021.

In 1999, United Nation General Assembly endorsed the recommendation by World Conference for Ministers responsible for youth, held in Lisbon from 8-12 August in 1998 that 12 August be declared International Youth Day (IYD).

IYD aims to give opportunity to youths to celebrate and mainstream young peoples’ ‘voices, actions and initiatives as well as their meaningful universal and equivalent engagement in management’.

This year’s theme: “Youth Engagement for Global Action” is chosen as the UN prepares to turn 75 meant to prepare the youths for their importance on participation in economic, political and life process as the world is riddled by increased polarization, crisis of legitimacy and relevance as Climate Change and COVID-19 pandemic bite the very essence of our existence in a free world.

 International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that due to COVID-19 pandemic, the economic impact on employment is that, in the first quarter of 2020 alone, about 5.4 per cent of global working hours, representing 155 million full-time jobs were lost relative to the first quarter of 2019.

Due to the current worldwide COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, Uganda celebrated the day scientifically by observing the World Health Organization (WHO’s) health guidelines as one of the avenues to combat the pandemic.

Uganda would have observed the day in the northern region district of Kitgum, but because of the pandemic, only a few youth leaders from the country converged at State House in Entebbe to join long time autocratic President Yoweri Museveni which was also attended by a handful of ministers.

This is election season in Uganda, but the voices of transition in leadership from former bush war heroes to the much younger generation and more educated youths, has never been lauder, sending panic in the spine of the autocrat.

In 2018, when the youthful musician, Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi, popularly known by his stage name as ‘Bobi Wine’ joined active politics in a surprised victory in a by-election for Kyadondo East Parliamentary race; he defeated the National Resistance Movement-Organization (NRM-O) candidate.

 Panic stricken Museveni reportedly traversed Bobi Wine’s ghettoes-the strongholds and the bedroom of the opposition in Kampala Metropolitan City area which had became a headache to the Mr. Museveni’s regime.

 Mr. Museveni was reported to have taken this defeat seriously since he had predicted when he said that there would be ‘no opposition in Uganda come 2021. He sent his handlers and operatives to the ghettoes with over UGX.5 billion shillings (about US$ 1.4 million) to woo Bobi Wine’s “People Power Movement” supporters to defect to his NRM-O party. He used and recruited equally popular artists from the central.

Two of artists, known by their stage names; the physically impaired “Butcher-Man” and “Bebe Cool” to be his ambassadors in the ghettoes.

In the north, he poached on Bobi Wine’s artist friend, Bosmic Joyce Otim, who had running battles with security operatives in Gulu when he tried to hold recruitment drive of members to the People Power Movement of Bobi Wine in Gulu Municipality, now a city.

The most re-known popular artist in the north was recently nominated as the NRM Parliamentary flag-bearer to challenge incumbent MP and a leader of Acholi Parliamentary Group, P.P Ojara-Oki, who is a member of the opposition FDC party in Chua West constituency.

He is reported to have recently been given a fat envelope of about UGX. 250 million shillings (about about US$ 68. 000.00) and a brand new car to leave the newly poached FDC’s “Mama Mabira,” Mrs. Beatrice Atim-Anywar, alone in Kitgum Municipality. Mrs. Anywar was rewarded with a ministerial post as State Minister for Water & Environment in a recent reshuffle.

Mrs Anywar has been in parliament for two consecutive terms; first as the Kitgum Woman Member of Parliament but when Kitgum Town Council got Municipality status, she switched to represent the Municipality in the tenth parliament on FDC ticket.

She voted against her electorates’ voices when she voted to support the lifting of Presidential age limit from the 75-year cap to allow Museveni run in 2021 election since he would have clocked 75years by 2021.

This was a blessing in disguise  because in this current election season, several youths have come up to join Bobi Wine in active politics and are challenging holders of positions previously reserved for historical bush-war heroes like the NRM-O founder and leader since it was launched on February 6, 1981-Mr. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni himself.

Following the lifting of the age limit, a nineteen year old senior six youth on vacation, Mr. Hillary Humphrey Kaweesa, surprised the nation as the youngest person to have joined other 36 other contestants who have picked nomination forms to be a presidential candidate in the February 2021 polls vying to challenge the autocrat.

He hopes to get the UGX. 20 million shillings (about US$ 6,000.00) required by Electoral Commission as nomination fees for the presidency from the voters, who he says, want smooth transition from the old guards to the youths.

Each presidential aspirant is expected to raise at least 100 signatures from at least two thirds of Uganda’s 134 districts to qualify as a dully nominated candidate by the Electoral Commission.

 The eleventh parliament will consist of about 497 members elected from 353 constituencies and interest groups. In the ruling NRM-O party alone, about 2,650 candidates, majority of who are youths, have applied to represent the party’s interest in parliament, subjecting themselves to undergo the party’s primary elections.

Four of the founders of NRA/M are fronting their children to be parliamentary election primaries of the party to challenge the current NRM holders of these seats in NRM’s central region stronghold.

On Saturday, August 15, 2020, Mr. Museveni fulfilled his 2016 election campaign pledge and launched the distribution of yellow bicycles donated to NRM supporters whose names were kept secret to all chairpersons of his NRM grass-root party structure chairpersons in the over 68000 villages spread across the country. He intends to be in every region to deliver these bicycles before even official campaign begins meant to boost mobilization for support for his re-election bid.

This leaves out Local Council I chairpersons who are not members of the ruling NRM party in the cold. The LC I unit is the lowest administrative unit in the country established by law but whose emolument is paltry UGX 10000 per month (about US$ 3.00). They are now forced to engage forced into corruption tendencies to make ends meet.

It is open secret in Uganda that Mr. Museveni has leverages to manipulate the national budget processes by putting more resources in ‘State House and classified expenditures’ than in education, health, agriculture or socio-economic service sectors where over 75 per cent of the population is engaged. This yellow bicycle project will cost the tax payers at least a total of UGX. 20.4 billion shillings (about US$ 5.6 million).      

On Friday, August 14, 2020, the third National Youth Parliament was convened at Royal Suits, Bugolobi in Kampala during which State Minister responsible for youth affairs, Ms. Florence Nakiwala, stated that: “We don’t want to recognize you as leaders of tomorrow but leaders of today as well. We want to put you in the national agenda of this country and continue to engage with you. We must go beyond elections but for day to day management”.

The European Union’s ambassador, HE. Atillio Pacifici, said the world must make sure that young people are accorded space to participate in national democratic governance through standing for electoral positions, youth engagement in global affairs like the current COVID-19 pandemic and climate change now, but not tomorrow.

Because of the pandemic, the 2020/2021 was passed when the country was already locked down and during which with the minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Mr. Matiya Kasaija, allocated UGX 1 trillion shillings (about US$ 274 million) to Uganda Development Bank and a further UGX 100 billion shillings (about US$ 374000) to a new program: “Emyooga” meant to improve household incomes, create jobs and wealth by reducing the 68.9 per cent of the population engaged in the subsistence economy to 30 per cent in the next five years.

The program aims to support recovery of the economy from the impact of COVID-19, to increase support in production of essential goods and services for import replacement and export promotion.

During the third National Parliament session, the outgoing chairperson of the National Youth Council, Ms. Aber Lillian, appealed to youths to implore women voters to enable them, collectively, use their cumulative numerical strength of over 78 per cent of the population to wrestle power from the about 10 per cent elders who govern this country and don’t want to give opportunity to youths.

A recent opinion poll published in the Daily Monitor puts Gen Museveni in the lead by getting about 47 per cent, which is significantly less than the 50 per cent plus one vote to win out-right  without the risk of a re-run if elections were held in March 2020.

The new kid in the block, popular youthful Bobi Wine polled second, beating Dr. Besigye the founding president of the leading FDC party. Eleven members from the oldest party, The Democratic Party representing central region, crossed allegiance to Bobi Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP) over the weekend.

Political observers here believe that if by any chance Museveni wins in 2021, the next five years may be his last reign since forces of change has never been louder and he must have realized that already.

They believe that to deny Museveni victory in the February 2021 poll, the opposition parties must deny him victory in the first round of voting by concentrating on youth, women and the disenfranchised, disillusioned members of the elite community who don’t want to participate in voting and encourage them to participate this time by casting their votes if they want to change the status quo because they would form the majority.



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