What should be done to improve youth participation in politics?

Despite the existence of good organizational structures for effective youth participation in politics, youth often continue to shun the political arena.

This has been attributed to a lack of critical resources to draw on in order to participate meaningfully in political processes.

Combined with the commercialization of politics in Uganda today, young people have on several occasions been used to support the interests of the dominant elite.

The involvement of youth in political processes in Africa is more critical today than ever, according to political experts.

Denis Ouma, one of the youths who was part of the discussion where young leaders from various political parties were engaged with government officials, political party leaders and duty bearers on the challenges affecting the youth said there is a lot that needs to be done to change the narrative.

 “We need to define what the barriers are as youth and identify what to do about it? We need to focus on mentorship because it’s those relationships that push you to the next level,” he said.

 In the past few years, there have been increasing complaints from youth that the monetization of politics bars them from participating actively in the country’s politics.

There is no doubt that Uganda is one of the countries with the youngest population in the world and youth leadership easily prepares one for future political leadership positions.

However, Flavia Kalule, Mubende Woman MP said the eminence of youth participation in political processes remains a major contest, adding that even with their numerical strength, the youth still face the challenge of participating meaningfully in politics. 

On whether or not political parties in Uganda have provided adequate space for youth participation in politics, Kalule said government extremism against the opposition leaning young people is among many reasons many of them refrain from involving themselves in politics.

“Young people end up in prison, they are arrested when they try to get involved in politics. Being young shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your passion,” said Kalule.

Frank Rusa, the country representative Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD), which funds the Inter Party Organization on Dialogue (IPOD) said any nation is transformed by its people but there must be a concerted effort by countries to transform their people for the greater good.

“In the next four years, we will implement the power of dialogue which includes participation of youth and women in politics. Let’s work together to form the Uganda that we all want to see,” said Rusa.

The Constitution permits all political groups to compete for political power and in terms of representation, it is very sensitive to the inclusion of marginalized groups such as people with disability, women and the youth.

It provides for their representation in Parliament and local governments.

Denis Hamson Obua, the Government Chief Whip emphasized that the youth need to take advantage of opportunities that are available to them to become effective leaders.

“Don’t see your opponent as an enemy. It’s very normal to be ambitious and have goals for yourself as a young person. Prominent people in my party didn’t support me at the time because they saw me as a threat,” he said.

Many political experts believe that it is imperative to understand what institutional and organizational structures are in place to foster youth participation.

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