The Public Dialogue on Youth Citizenship space in the Post- election era was organized by Uganda youth network and Youth Aid Africa with funding from Crossing Borders. The Dialogue is part of a pool of many engagements under the “Keeping the Promise” Project. It was the final dialogue under the same project for this year 2016.

Uganda Youth Network is the leading national youth organization working to mainstream youth engagement in development and governance processes in Uganda and East Africa. Started in 2002, UYONET has created a collective platform for young people’s involvement and policy advocacy by young people.

Youth Aid Africa (YAA) is a youth empowerment organization that works to strengthen young peoples’ engagement in economic development and governance processes in Uganda and Africa. Started in 2012, Youth Aid Africa has been working to enhance youth meaningful participation in development and governance processes through mindset change, information sharing and policy advocacy for and by the youth.

Uganda Youth Network and Youth Aid Africa entered an MoU to collaborate on a number of youth related programs ranging from Governance, Economic empowerment and Policy Advocacy. This Dialogue was thus organized under this arrangement.

The dialogue which started at 2:45 Pm was attended by Youth Leaders from higher institutions of learning including Makerere University, Uganda Institute of Information and Technology (UICT), Uganda technology and Management University (UTAMU), Management Training Advisory Center (MTAC), Makerere University Business School, Youth Civil Society leaders from YAFU, Free Thinkers, KCCA, UNSA, Reach a Hand Uganda, NYC and Makerere University Convocation.

Purpose of the dialogue:

The Dialogue aimed at assessing the position of young people and the level to which they are citizens or servants in their own country and possibly find alternative means to foster democratic and civil inclusion as well as dispensation.

Target audience:

The Youth dialogue on Youth Citizenship space in the post-election era had targeted over 50 young People including youth leaders from a wider political, social and economic spectrum, civil society organizations, academic institutions, the media and the clergy.  Accordingly, over 50 youth leaders from various institutions attended the 3 – hour engagement.

Goal and Objectives: 

The goal of the Dialogue was to build a common understanding, among public policy makers, experts from across the board on how youth can peacefully and meaningfully express their active citizenship. And the objective was to share information and best practices that youth can adopt to enhance their involvement as active citizen in good governance and sustainable peace and development.

The Activity

It kicked off with welcome Remarks from The organizers i.e Uganda Youth Network and Youth Aid Africa. It was moderated by Mr. Oluma Kennedy, the Ag Secretary General of Uganda Federal Alliance, and the keynote speaker was Prof. Mwambusya Ndebesa. Ms. Akiteng Isabella, The Program Officer in charge of Policy Advocacy represented the Executive Director, UYONET.

In her remarks, She emphasized the work that UYONET is engaged in and asserted that UYONET works with many partners including Youth Aid Africa. She appreciated everyone for turning up and the organizers for putting all efforts to make the event a success.

The Executive Director, Youth Aid Africa welcomed members to the dialogue. He expressed appreciation to Uganda Youth Network and Crossing borders for the efforts and financial support. He mentioned that Youth Aid Africa was and is still commited to putting in place the best efforts to run many more programs like these. He wished everyone excellent deliberations before Professor could take to the floor to give a keynote address.

The Keynote Address:

The keynote address entitled “Youth and Citizenship; Youth participating or being participated?” was delivered by Prof. Ndebesa Mwambusya, a reknown Political Economy Academic and Lecturer at Makerere University, College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Ndebesa Mwambusya addressed the participants on the subject. He defined citizenship, participation and shared the forms of expression and exercising citizenship. He highlighted the factors that affect youth citizenship, why participate and encourage citizenship, gave a brief history of youth citizenship in Uganda and described the formal structures of youth participation and gave views on controlling youth citizenship. It is important to note that the keynote speaker highlighted the positive and negative forms of youth participation as well as whether presence leads to influence.

His address excited and intrigued the panel and the audience as it rose questions like whether the big number of parliament is a guarantee of better service delivery. He referred to the need for soft power in organizing and transforming society as opposed to many parliamentarians in Parliament.

According to Prof. Ndebesa Mwambusya, Citizenship is defined by ones active participation and influence in shaping public affairs and a subject is not necessarily one who is under a kingdom nor is a citizen necessarily one who is in a republic. You can have a subject under a republic and a citizen under a monarchy. Accordingly, he challenged the participants as to whether they are citizens or subjects.

He recommended that;

  • For the youth to exercise and express their citizenship effectively, they must be citizens and not subjects. He asserted that they must be actively involved in shaping public affairs.
  • The youth must overcome subject values and attitudes which most of the youth have internalized. They must also overcome politics of patronage, negative participation to harass opposing sides, must be tolerant to alternative view points and refuse to be clients.
  • The youth should also transit from over concentration on pursuing materialistic achievements at the expense of non-materialistic pursuits.
  • The youth participation should be ideologically grounded in non-materialistic values such as; freedom, justice, human rights, peace, gender equality, human dignity, climate change, anti- racism, xenophobia, authoritarianism, corruption and other social, economic and political vices
  • The youth must constitute themselves into a third force. The youth must imbibe and internalize serving the “Common Good” as their ideological foundation to inform their actions
  • He also recommended that youth citizenship dialogues should be regularized to take place say every first Saturday of every month.

The Panel Discussion:

This comprised of four panelists i.e Hon. Silwanyi Solomon, MP, Bukooli Central and Vice Chairman of the NRM Parliamentary Caucus, Hon. Veronica Nanyondo, Woman MP, Bukomansimbi District, Mr. Taremwa Emmanuel, A young Educationist and Political Commentator, and Ms. Natasha Loyce from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.

The panelists agreed with the keynote speaker on issues of the underlying factors affecting youth involvement in political processes in the country and advised that the youth should involve themselves in agriculture and other economic productive activities so as to gain economic independence.

From the panel discussion it was also clear that there is need to sustain the conversation around youth citizenship space and participation in the country. Accordingly, Hon. Silwanyi Solomon pledged support for such youth dialogues from Government. That he would join in the efforts to lobby from the Office of the Prime Minister from the funds meant for “Baraza” program.

The youth were also advised to fight for their political space as no one is going to hand this space to them on silver platter.

The engagement with the Audience:

There was a high level of engagement from the audience with many of the participants giving opinions that were backing the recommendations by the Prof. Ndebesa Mwambusya. They majorly questioned the willingness of the government to create a favorable environment for their (youth) meaningful participation in political and governance processes.

The Social Media Discussion:

Prior to the physical engagement, there was an online discussion on social media under the Harsh tag #YouthCitizenship.

The discussion happened on Facebook and Twitter and there was also a broadcast of live twitter feeds during the physical dialogue that kept updating the participants on what was going on social media concerning the same subject. Senior opinion experts including Dr. Muniini Mulera, a famous Columnist in the Daily Monitor of the famous “Letter to My Kampala Friend”, Dr. Runumi Francis, Former LC5 Chairperson, Kabale District and former Commissioner, Ministry of Health, Solomon Onyango, PhD Student on Governance at catholic University of East Africa, and many others participated in the same online discussion.