Without a doubt, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, the premier-designate, is a nice guy. Polished, well educated and gifted with an amiable mien, Rugunda (66), is precisely the kind of person a young boy or girl would happily run toward to receive a caring hug and a reassuring pat on the head.
However, by naming him the new premier, President Museveni has yet again sent a wrong message to the youth he is saying it is only the old guard who can continue making important decisions at the top echelon of his government.
Unfortunately, for this country in general and the youth in particular, it is going to be business as usual. There is no chance that the burning issues affecting our youth will be decisively addressed any time soon. Maybe not under Rugunda’s watch as chief minister.
Yet the warnings of dire consequences are all over the place. If you have not read the State of Uganda Population Report 2013, look for it right away.
That report will tell you that the youth are “disproportionately affected by unemployment in Uganda. However, the Government of Uganda has not yet developed comprehensive policies on youth employment.”
“Since independence, Uganda has lacked an explicit, coherent, and comprehensive national youth policy to guide and ensure sustainable youth development. Youth planning has largely been non-government organisation-based and reactive to prevailing circumstances,” it says.
Yet shockingly, every report on our population demographics in recent years has shown a pyramid, with the majority of the population in the young age bracket at the base and the minority in the older age bracket at the top. More than 78 per cent of us are below the age of 30.
We have just been counted. Do not be surprised to learn that the youth are now more than 80 per cent of our total population in other words, a grimmer picture about youth unemployment.
Many of our young people cannot find uplifting a headline like this one which appeared in a local paper: “Museveni sacks Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi as Rugunda eats big.”
You see, there is this mindset, which analogises the state as food. A public job is about eating, not service delivery! In that sense, the minority of older people take the largest chunk of food.
To appease the youth, even symbolically, President Museveni should have picked a youthful person such as Richard Todwong (40), the Minister Without Portfolio, to signal that the government is serious about finding lasting solutions to the worsening problem of youth unemployment.
Symbolism is a powerful conveyor of hope. Across the eastern border, Kenyans have signalled a “digital migration” – from the old guard to the youthful – by sending Uhuru Kenyatta (then 51) and William Ruto (46) to State House as president and deputy president, respectively, last year.
Americans did it earlier with Barack Obama (53), who is now completing a second term in the White House. The Russians too did it when Vladimir Putin was named Premier in 1999 at the age of 46.
If you want to see how hopeless our youth have become, just go to any trading centre. There you find them, sad-faced, pretending to be happy playing card games, swarming sports betting points, or indulging in risky sexual behaviour after getting high on alcohol and hard drugs. It sucks!
Government must give our youth hope. One way of doing this is by sending a clear message, which says that issues affecting the youth should be at the centre of our governance agenda.
Recycling old men is very far from sending such a message.
Mr Akwap is a lecturer at Kampala International University. firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE: Daily Monitor