“Where are the youth in all this?” | A Speech by Elly Karuhanga, at a recent youth leader’s conference

Posted April 27, 2011 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Featured ~ 4,519 views


By Elly Karuhanga | Youth Leaders Conference | I am here today because I am seeking to be governed well in my old age and it’s my right to enjoy.

When am with my children who are now adults, we talk about the future of our country as adults. Am here to assume the same about you because of my age, you are truly my children. It’s something we are all looking at with keen interest.

In our case in Uganda we have had more than a fair share of blood shed and I don’t wish it to be visited upon you like it did in my youth.

Having said that, about 85% of Ugandans are youth and we have watched closely the dramatic changes the youth have brought about in the Maghreb region and the Middle East.

Uganda has the youngest population, the highest youth unemployment and some of the greatest opportunities in the World.

You live in a time of great opportunity. Yet you also live in a time of great challenge.

However, only about 1% of Ugandans are above 60 years but we still have the lion’s share of power! So I thank you young people for respecting to be lead by our wisdom and not numbers.

In the present set-up of our new found and developing democracy there is an urgent need for the youth to unite and take charge of political affairs of the country.

  • You can’t call yourselves leaders unless you are willing to engage the problems of those you lead.
  • You can’t continue to have a sense of entitlement without a sense of responsibility. Rights have responsibilities.
  • You should know that if you stand united there is nobody who can stand against you.
  • You are the power house of energy.

Ours is a young country and the power and energy of youth should be utilized positively in order to make Uganda even more prosperous positively and patriotically.

You should provide some rest to our ageing politicians who have given so much to Uganda from their youth years.

The youth has the power to present a new face of Uganda in the global market and the talent to make Uganda a developed country. We must understand that a nation can only progress on young and innovative minds. It’s the duty of every Ugandan family to motivate and promote their children to come forward and develop Uganda.

There is so much going on in our country today, which raises a lot of questions. For example;

1. Lack of electricity and clean and safe water.
2. The Karomoja question
3. The unemployment question
4. What do we do with NSSF?
5. How do we avoid the oil curse?
6. How do we improve our police?
7. Our electoral process?
8. Our score card for the Judiciary?
9. Our civil service? Our health care?
10. Our Parliament?
11. Our district councils?
12. Our financial sector?
13. Our Infrastructure?
14. Our corruption
15. Our foreign policy?
16. Our national values?
17. Our tendency to negative tribalism?
18. Our complete miserable failure to be a food basket of the starving world in spite of our fertile soils and the most water networked country in the world?
19. Our minerals and other natural resources?
20. Where are the fresh youth minded think tanks for Uganda?

I see a lot of DP, FDC, UPC, NRM, SUUBI youths active at highly charged political rallies. Active citizenship demands far more than spending a few minutes in voting basins.

To determine the health of our democracy, you need to ask more of your good selves. Are you reading the newspapers? Are you discussing politics and public policy with friends, family, and teachers? Are you engaged in local politics? Are you participating in community service? Are you Rotarians or something akin to it? Are you thinking about the future of our and the generations to come? Is it all about you? You are on face book chatting away with the latest abbreviations and jargons…. Kyaaba too much, KTM, by the way BTW, laugh out loud LOL……….. Please please , take advantage of these social networks and debate issues!!!!!

Each generation must take up the mantle of its successful predecessors and move it miles forward. “Anyone who can not be an apprentice can never be a master”
Winston Churchill said “The empires of the future are the empires of the mind”

In the world, Uganda was the first to initiate youth representation in the Legislative Assembly.

I hear that a multi-billion northern Uganda youth centre is nearing completion in Gulu with funding from the Government and the Commonwealth.

In addition, the Government is searching for a suitable site to locate a permanent home for the National Youth Council.

NRM, blame it for its faults if you want, but they have tried to uplift the general environment for the youth to thrive.

The responsibility of the youth is to position themselves, have the right education, ask the right questions, demand the right policies, determine the right leaders and have a positive and patriotic attitude about Uganda and only then can they be able to harness the opportunities that the country presents to them.

Let us turn Uganda into an organization or even into a company. Let us try to manage it like a company is run. Let us call the Shareholders (Ugandans) and the majority share holders are the youth of the Company called Uganda. They should be able to run a profitable and successful company/Uganda.

Let our President be the Chief Executive Officer of this company, assisted by committee and carefully selected Directors that can set up a great company and achieve a healthy balance sheet for the share holders.

The Board of Directors, the Committees of the Board of Directors, Executive management team, the Heads of Departments, the Internal Auditors, the External auditors, the PR function (as in Foreign Affairs) all aggregate to making profit, and the shareholders are happy.

How many elected MPs are below 45 years? How many do you think will be director/ministers that can work 24/7 with modern information technology that can help this company Uganda to create more jobs and make Uganda a winning nation?

In order to make opportunities possible, however, all the youth should leave behind the limitations inherited by the past.

The line ministry for the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology is the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

If anyone is currently seeking leadership in Uganda and is not having sleepless nights planning for the youth, then they are probably unfit for the job and will end up on the rubbish heap of history.

Note carefully that nobody deserves a place at the leadership table just because he/she is young. And nobody should invite you just because you are young. And as youth don’t allow anybody to make you travel on a low road so that they can reach a high office. Don’t allow people to come here with nothing to offer but tribalism, regionalism etc and then they ride on your backs to high office. Why should anyone ride on your back anyway? As someone said “a man cannot ride your back unless it’s bent.” So straighten your backs. To go to high places you must have ideas. You must be ideological.

Martin Luther King led the greatest revolution of the 20th century in America at age 27. He had passion and ideology. He had a message of equality and a method of non violence.

Kwame Nkurumah was in his mid thirties when he led the struggle for freedom in Ghana. He didn’t just get Ghanaian independence. He formed OAU and fought for the total liberation of Africa. He had a message and a method.
Thomas Sankara at 33 years seized power and attempted to reform his country and give it a chance. He had a message and a method.

Patrice Lumumba won the independence of Congo in his thirties. He had a message and a method.
A university student called Yoweri Museveni travelled to Mozambique to stand with the people there and as a young man fought the Amin government and led a revolution here that has had profound effects on the entire region. Sevo had a message and a method.

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere led to the total transformation and liberation of this region. He had a message and a method. I could go on.

Nelson Mandela gave up his youth for his country and freed the black people from bondage and the white people from prejudice. He had a method and a message.

How old is the founder of facebook?

How old were Steve Jobs or Bill Gates when they started the computer revolution? What do they have in common?
A message and a method.

Society is changed by people with a message and a method. Religion is spread by people with a message and a method. Christianity in Uganda was not spread by Lugard and all those characters. It was spread by the Uganda martyrs. By the youth like Serwanga Nuwa, Balikudembe Mukasa, Apollo Kivebulya, Yusuf Rugarama. It was spread by the preachers like Bishop Olum, Bishop Kivengere. Sometimes paying in blood.

Who first fought for Uganda? It was the young men Mwanga and Kabalega. They had a message and a method. All these people had a message and a method. It is not enough to get a position. You need a message to solve peoples problems and a method of solving them.

The bible says in 1Timothy 4.12 “Let no one despise you because of your youth”. Don’t allow anyone to despise you. Be able to present ideas.

Sometimes young people think it’s their “turn” to “eat”. They think when shall these old men give way for us? For you to do what? To enjoy privilege? To also “eat the national cake”? That’s entitlement. Instead have responsibility.

Kennedy said “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” So please have responsibility. Think of what you can give Uganda not what you can take from it. Be ideological. Produce an idea for there is nothing as powerful “as an idea whose time has come.”

But I must confess I sometimes sympathize with this sentiment of us old people giving way. You find someone was already old when there was a fight for independence still in position of authority. Worse, you find people sleeping in cabinet or parliament. Worse, you find Ministers or officials interfering with professional oversight bodies. Worse, you find people engaged in massive corruption holding high office. And nobody is doing anything about it.

I’m reminded of the battle of David and Goliath. Goliath came challenging people. They saw a giant. They all got scared. The man was like a dinosaur. So people see these dinosaurs and get scared. They have history. They have power. They have connections. They are from a certain area. They practice a certain religion. But when David saw Goliath what did he see? He asked the soldiers “who is this uncircumcised philistine that he may defy the armies of the Lord?” when you see these people sleeping and stealing and not caring don’t say what large dinosaurs. Say “who is this uncircumcised philistine trying to destroy our country?” Use the knowledge and wisdom you have to show the way forward but be careful.

This country will be won over not because you are a youth MP, councilor etc. but because you are a realist and an idealist, because you have a message and a method.

A young Asian girl recently wrote in the daily monitor that she had visited Uganda. Ridden on its boda bodas. Visited its night spots. Sat in its taxis. Eaten a “rolex”. Travelled upcountry. Quarreled with taxi and boda boda men. Partied with young people. And she said of Uganda that it is now her country. Because it is the country of the people she loves. She said of Uganda “it is so much more than the pearl of Africa. More than the source of the Nile. More than the beauty of Kabale. The gorrilla’s of Bwindi… could this be the most beautiful place on earth?”

I tell you people this great country of Sipi falls, of Rippon falls, Murchison falls and owen falls; of the Sempaya hot springs; of Rwenzori and Elgon; along the Equator; in the Rift valley what more can I say? This country is your country.

When I look at you, you look an enthusiastic and handsome/beautiful and young group. But should I trust you my majority share holders? Will you ensure that our company Uganda will make a profit, employ more youths and be a happy country to live in for everyone who comes to our Pearl of Africa? The ball is in your court.

Thank you
Elly Karuhanga
Partner | Kampala Associated Advocates & Honorary Consul of the Republic of Seychelles
Tel: +256-772-744123 or +256-752-221055

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


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