Last Friday, a group of stick-wielding, NRM T-shirt wearing youths attacked the home of former prime minister Amama Mbabazi and engaged in a scuffle which is said to have raged on for hours. The youth, who refer to themselves as NRM 247, claimed they turned up to demand money and jobs allegedly promised by Mbabazi.
It is still not clear who the youths are and on whose behalf they were acting, as the party they purport to represent and whose agenda they appear to have been pushing, categorically denied knowledge of the group or the source of authority for their actions.
Beyond questioning how such a blatant breach of public peace and order could happen under the watchful eye of the police, there is need to examine the growing trend of youth mobilising or being mobilised into vigilante groups for the benefit of various political players.
Training, arming and sanctioning the actions of youth groups like the NRM 247, Poor Youth, Rich Youth and others such as these sets a dangerous precedent. It sends the wrong message to the youth who form the majority of this country that throwing sticks and stones is the way to go about politics. And while sticks and stones may break no bones today, if the same youth get their hands on guns tomorrow, the story could be different.
With more than 70 per cent of Uganda’s population under 30 years of age, the country is said to have the youngest population in the world. This important detail on the country’s youth could be exploited in two ways as a force for good or evil. Going by the recent trend of events, our politicians seem to have chosen to follow the latter approach. Instead of ensuring the young people get meaningful education, acquire the right skills and find gainful employment, we are busy giving them cash handouts, arming them with sticks and teaching them to perpetrate sectarianism in society.
It is a truly sad state of affairs one which must be checked as we embark on the road to the 2016 election. Uganda’s youth are formidable force which can be mobilised to achieve tremendous economic growth. The powers that be should think carefully about harnessing this great resource because if misused, this country’s youth could be the source of its next disaster.