Framework for Youth Participation in Public Affairs

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“Development assistance should work for the benefit of youth (as target beneficiaries), with youth as partners, and be shaped by youth as leaders

DFID (2007)

The United Nations has long recognized that the imagination, ideals and energies of young people are vital for the continuing development of the societies in which they live.[1] Little wonder, the World Programme of Action for Youth to the year 2000 and beyond identifies “participation in decision-making processes” as one of the ways through which youth can fully participate in the life of society. Additionally, the Commonwealth Youth Programme[2] advocates for the effective participation of young women and men in the development process and for social transformation.

At the regional level, the African Youth Charter provides that “every young[3] person shall have the right to participate in all spheres of society.”

Nationally, Uganda’s Constitution has several provisions which establish and guarantee youth participation.[4] Articles 29; 38; 59(1); and 78(1)(c), give further room for youth participation, including representation in parliament.

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Source: GlobalPlatforms.org

The Local Government Act (1997), specifically sections 2(b) (c); 11(c); and 24(1)(c) establish youth participation in local governments and administrative units. Similarly, the National Youth Council Act provides for the establishment of a National Youth Council (from village to national level), its composition, objectives and functions. According to UYONET, the framers of this law envisaged that the National Youth Council structures will be the main vehicle for organized youth participation in governance and development. The National Youth Policy (2001) seeks to promote youth participation in democratic processes as well as in community and civic affairs and ensuring that youth programmes are youth centered.

 

References:

[1] World Programme of Action for Youth

[2] The Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment (2007-2015)

[3] Young person includes both children and youth. This is based on varying age group definitions of youth

[4] See paragraphs II (i)(ii)(iii) of the “democratic principles” under the national objective and directive principles of state policy

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The Law on the Right to Participation

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The right to participation is enshrined in various international instruments such as conventions, treaties and declarations which Uganda is party to.

Under Article 21(1) of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. Similarly, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, (1976) in Article 25 (a) recognizes every citizen’s right and the opportunity to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

These provisions are re-echoed by Article 13 (1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which provides that every citizen shall have the right to participate freely in the government of his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in accordance with the provisions of the law.

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An illustration (SOURCE: Internet)

At the national level, Objective II (i) of the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution dictates that the State shall be based on democratic principles which empower and encourage the active participation of all citizens at all levels in their own governance. Similarly, Article 38 (1) guarantees the right of every Uganda citizens to participate in the affairs of government, individually or through his or her representatives in accordance with law.

 

Land Matters: Who is Thinking for Teso?

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This week, the Commission of Inquiry into the Effectiveness of Law, Policies and Processes of Land Acquisition, Land Administration, Land Management and Land Registration in Uganda chaired by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire commenced public hearings.

So far, a number of prominent citizens have appeared before it and given very insightful information regarding the land issues in this country and for some, their areas of origin. When I schemed through the list, none of them (so far) comes from Teso or is articulating land matters from the sub-region. I have seen Lawyer Peter Mulira, Robert Kalundi Serumaga, MP Alex Ruhunda (and other elders from Tooro) and heads of government entities.

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Commission Chair Hon Justice Catherine  Bamugemereire (Photo: Judiciary Website)

This triggered my mind to wonder who is thinking for my Teso sub-region. Here is why. Of recent, land conflicts in Teso have escalated thus creating huge social rifts among individual community members, families, clans, religious bodies, and public institutions. Just like in other parts of the country, most of the criminal cases (domestic violence, murder, assault, criminal trespass, etc) in the justice system stem from or are connected to land. We have lost people because of land conflicts. I know of families that have been broken down because of land.

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The Commission’s Terms of Reference

This begs the question: Is someone thinking for Teso? Are any of our leaders organizing themselves to appear before this Commission and share the Teso experience on land matters? What of the NGOs in the sub-region? What is the Iteso Cultural Union planning? Are the rural Iteso (most of whom are victims of land conflicts) even aware that this process is on-going?

The Commission still has time, I just need to be sure that something is being done and if not, what can be done in the remaining time. We need to discuss this matter and plan how to represent the sub-region on such an important platform which may form a basis for future legislation or policy making on land matters.

If you know a leader from Teso, sound them up and ask about this important issue.

Najjeera Road: The Exception to the ‘Left Hand Traffic’ Rule in Uganda

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Najjera is arguably one of the fastest growing areas surrounding Kampala city. Every passing day, real estate developers advertise countless residential units in the area. However, this rapid growth is not matched with the infrastructural set up in the area especially the main road which connects to the city. The surface of the road is broken (probably by the heavy rains). There are countless potholes on the road and there’s just little space in the middle. There are no lanes on the road. The water ditches have literally eroded away.

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A pot hole (INTERNET PHOTO)

In Uganda, we observe the Left Hand Traffic (LHT) rule which is to the effect that unless a contrary directive is issued, drivers should keep on the left side of the road. This is important for traffic flow. Sadly, as my friend Andrew Karamagi once remarked, Najjeera dwellers do not have the luxury of complying with this rule because they only have one choice – to drive on what is left of the road. How absurd! Additionally, with no lighting, driving at night on this road is nothing short of another nightmare.

Now, this road serves several individuals who work in the city and surrounding areas. Combined with undisciplined road users, mostly taxi drivers and bodaboda riders (even many private drivers), there’s traffic jam at almost any given time of the day (even as early as 6:00am).

Whereas Uganda Police has deployed some traffic cops in the area, this is an insufficient intervention. The root problem, in my view is the terrible road!

It’s urgent that the leadership of Kira Municipality takes the necessary action to address this issue. It’s embarrassing.

 

In Support of Bobi Wine’s Parliamentary Bid

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Last week, popular musician Bobi Wine announced his intention to run for Member of Parliament for Kyadondo East, Wakiso District. The seat fell vacant after the Court of Appeal nullified the election of FDC’s Apollo Katinti on grounds that there was non-compliance with electoral laws which substantially affected the results. This followed a petition by NRM’s Sitenda Sebalu.

Bobi Wine’s announcement attracted mixed reactions, especially from social media commentators. For starters, BW has always been political. I hear his family is also politically active. He has associated with the opposition in Uganda. He has been hobnobbing with former FDC party president and presidential flagbearer Col. Dr Kizza Besigye in court, at his home, during the Presidential Debate etc. Recently, things got a bit harsh when he shared a photo of himself with Dr Besigye wherein he seemed to insinuate that the iconic opposition leader had blessed (or endorsed) his candidature. Sections of the opposition-leaning commentators literally threw him away—like a hot potato. This is for another day.

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Bobi Wine*

Today, I want to share why I think BW can make a good MP. Despite the fact that I don’t speak Luganda (fluently), I have listened to and solicited interpretations of some of BW’s songs that discuss issues affecting our society, especially the urban poor. I find BW a competent and articulate exponent of our social issues including unemployment, drug abuse, insecurity, elections etc. Little wonder, Police has used him occasionally to calm down possible riots. He has a studio which I hear is easily accessible to many upcoming ghetto artistes. I hear he runs a number of businesses which means he appreciates the need for an economy that works for all. I have read his Facebook posts about the different speaking engagements he has had or his life story and I can’t help but conclude that he appreciates our problems better than many people including leaders.

Uganda has become a society of whiners. People like complaining about everything but doing nothing or little to address these issues. Some of BW’s fellow musicians are pre-occupied with singing about sex, money, big cars etc. Many use their music for largely self-survival. Of course, even Bobi earns from his music. However, he has always made the poor but of his agenda in his music. He has decided not to sit on the sidelines and lament about issues through music (or Facebook) only but has instead sought to join the institutions that shape decisions on the issues he sings about. One of those institutions is Parliament. His background as a hustler in the ghetto could enrich our leadership with experience. Talking about background; Yes, BW is an entertainer. He may have been (or still is) a weed smoker. He may have dreadlocks. He may walk with a bounce. He may be all the “indecent” things you may talk about in a leader. But what difference does his background make if he has a good head on his shoulders?

Lastly, the political process in the country is and should be to be open to all citizens, including musicians . You can have all types of issues with our Legislature but one thing is constant; for Parliament to function properly, we need to elect good people to occupy it; people who understand our daily struggles. Bobi Wine, in my view is one of them.

The only problem I will is if the basis of his support is his popularity not the ideas he espouses because being a super star doesn’t automatically flood one’s mind with good thoughts.

*photo obtained from his Facebook page

Why I Dreaded Visitation Days…

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These days, whenever I hear kids making noise about Visitation Days (VDs), I just laugh. I get amused because back in the day, this was one of the Days I never looked forward to. In fact, the announcement of the next VD would cause me sleepless nights. If mum confirmed that she would be visiting, I would almost want the world to swallow me up.

Here is why. I was notorious for heckling fellow students and even teachers in class or in the assembly. I was also known for just making noise (especially when teachers were not in class). No Class Prefect could do anything about it. Together with this clown Ras Dartte, we would literally bring down anyone.

So whenever it was a VD, it was a platform for Teachers to “have us”. There was this particular one, Madam Namususwa (I remember she was very beautiful and ‘young’). The day she met my mum on one VD, she literally poured her heart out to her. She yapped for close to an hour — basically narrating a litany of all my ‘sins’ including but not limited to PARKING (no details here, I am now married).

Mummy wasn’t amused at all. I could read the disappointment on her face until Madam Namususwa concluded with “despite all this, he is a very promising boy”. To my mum, that was the important thing. She smiled.

Pheeeeeeew!!! I relaxed.

To end all this VD crap, I needed a plan. My mum is an ‘economist’. Any idea that saves her money will always have her attention. One day, there was an imminent VD and I really didn’t want her to come (for obvious reasons). Fortunately, she was complaining of brokenness. So I asked her what her usual total budget (transport, food, pocket money, shopping etc) for VD was. “… between 70,000 to 100,000 in total” she replied. I told her to break down for me. I realized she spent about 15,000/= on transport and the food plus shopping would cost her like 35,000/=. Then she would normally leave me with 50,000/=.

I made a proposal that instead of all the hustle, she would just send me the 50,000/= and I would be fine if she didn’t come. “So you don’t one to see me? Don’t you miss me?” she asked rather furiously. I explained to her that I didn’t want her to stress over just one day. Besides “I am a boy. I can always sort myself”.

She fell for the trap. She even thanked me for being such an “understanding” son. For the two years I spent in MM College Wairaka, my mum visited only twice (in S.5).

Most importantly, I had my peace.

Then I Became a “Chartered Marketer”

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With our election victory sealed and my man Yabin Ofumbi sworn in to office, it was obvious that as his closest ally, I was in “things”.

One of the benefits that came with being a prefect was an entitlement to a cubicle. I remember this was in KABALEGA Dormitory (occupied by O’level students). I think it was initially designed as a Store. We were four in it. On the extreme partition was a guy called Mutagaya , the outgoing DH prefect (a staunch mulokole like this) and another guy Talenga who was the Ofumbi’s Deputy (I heard he died a few years ago–RIP). The cubicle was partitioned into 3 sub-cubicles — the size of an average Ventilated Improved Pit latrine (VIP).

We were in the middle, sharing a double decker bed. Ofumbi was on top (so now you can estimate the quantity of beans-inspired gas I used to “swallow” every night from the man above). But life was good!

One day, we were very broke and as usual sharing our problems, I recalled something Ofumbi told me some time back. Apparently, he knew how to mend/sow shoes. I told him how we could make some money out this. He was open to it but there was one problem. Ofumbi feared chics. Coming from Tororo College (a single sex school I refused to join for that very reason), he couldn’t swallow the idea of being known as a COBBLER among the female population. Apparently, that was a job popularly associated with Persons with Disabilities (sad).

I told him to relax. I proposed that I will be responsible for collecting shoes from fellow students, especially chics and I will hold out as the actual cobbler. Having improved on my relations with them, I had a number of female friends and since chics have a lot of shoes, they were a good (if not only) target for our business. So as far as Ofumbi was concerned, his name would remain “clean” while mine would head to the gutters. He bought in.

The next day, I started talking to students how I could fix their shoes. Many of them laughed at me and took it as one of my usual jokes. I convinced one chic and she gave me her pair. After a day, I delivered during lunch time. She was so shocked! The shoes had been skillfully worked on (this Ofumbi man should leave medical practice and return to being a cobbler). Trust women with ‘lugambo’. Within no time, our business had caught fire. Many knew about it.
There was another factor to our business success; the death of one of the Estates workers (some guy from Arua who used to do this cobbler work as side income). His death created a vacuum that we strategically filled in.

With prices ranging from between 200/= to 500/= (I was responsible for negotiating and concluding deals hence MARKETEER), we were ‘loaded’.

Work was flowing in everyday and our working time was before supper and after prep and then weekends. Suddenly, we could afford to buy milk, sumbusas and cakes at break time. Our budget was 1000/= (milk-500; sumbi-200; cake 300) per day for our breakfast. Once we made over 5,000/= over weekend, we knew breakfast for the whole week was sorted.

This was progress. I would take weeks without writing to my mum or calling to ask for money. I returned home at the end of the term and was all glowing. I remember my mum saying “acamu do ijo e boarding ba” which loosely translates to boarding life is treating you well (I wish she knew the secret).

Being in a cubicle also presented another business opportunity i.e. provision of storage services. At the end of the term, we would collect student’s suitcases and mattresses and keep in our room. We used to charge between 1000/- to 3000/= (depending on the quantity). My work was to record the names and properties kept. This meant that at the start of the next term, we had some money to play with while our pocket money was safely kept at the Bursar’s office.

Additionally, Ofumbi also knew how to shave so we smuggled a shaving machine to our cubicle (We didn’t have a mirror fixed on the wall. The client had to hold a broken piece of glass window pane if they wanted to see themselves being shaved). Money was flowing in. Then my mum had also given me a phone (I wrote about this sometime ago) so I was also busy offering “Public Pay Phone” services for students in the night. Sadly, the phone was confiscated by Mr. Kirya one unfortunate morning.

So as cobblers, barbers, call service providers and our storage business, my S.6. (2005) was arguably the most financially independent phase of my life. With no costs (electricity bills, rent, PAYE, NSSF etc) to be paid, we were hogging net profits.

This life!