“Emiti Emito N’ekibira “ is how my nationality of Busoga, in its Lusoga language valued the youth. In the language of the English this can be translated as “The young trees are the forest”. Through interactions with the forest for centuries the Basoga, the people of Busoga, learnt through observation that the real forest is not the big trees but the young trees at various stages of growth and development, which replace the older trees.
Likewise, in a human population, or population of any animal species such as Lion, Elephant, Zebra, Baffalo or Cheatah, the young ones of various ages are critical to the survival of the species through renewability.
It is absolutely important that the young ones are secure health wise and physically, and well-protected from their usual enemies. Otherwise, the young may suffer death far more than their adult relatives.
Among animals, the young ones, especially in their early life, tend to suffer death through a diversity of causes, including natural enemies or even from amongst their populations.
For example, in the lion population, the male is poor at hunting, but when the female has successfully felled a prey, the male feeds first, then the female next and the cabs (infants) feed last.
In a group of lions, the cabs are in danger of dying early from malnutrition. Or else, if they are males, when they reach reproductive age, the big male frequently fights them out of the group, although when it is old and weak it is pushed out of the group by the healthier stronger males.
In the human population, the young may be faced with a variety of adversities, including neglect, malnutrition, drought, climate change, diseases, armed conflicts, et cetera. When so many young ones die, the population may not be able to renew itself or replace those adults that are dying.
Such population is in danger of collapsing and not being able to be represented in future. It is up to families, extended families, local governments, federal governments or central governments to care for their young. If not, then theirs will be a failure story rather than a success story. Even if they are wealthy or heavily propertied, it will be a measure of their failure if so many young people die off.
Although Africa is rich in young people due to improved health services, it is also true that so many young people of all ages are dying in large numbers from a diversity of causes. As one writer put it recently, “accountable leadership remains one of the biggest challenges to development in Africa. Leaders in Africa have not aways responded effectively to the needs of the continent”.
In fact, many an African leader has succeeded more in primitively accumulating wealth rather than ensuring that the wealth of the countries they rule is used to improve the living standards of the people they rule.
They are proud to boast about their huge ranches, many firms, hotels, supermarkets and skyscrapers than number of hospitals or schools they have used public money to build. In fact, they sometimes, if not always encourage corruptions of those in the patronage chain as a means to stay in power as long as possible.
In the past, the immediate post-independence leaders in Africa encouraged the youth to be involved in leadership, because they themselves were young. They discouraged brain drain or conversion of the youth into modern slaves domestically or internationally. They wanted the youth to be in their countries to build their economies.
They quickly built the economies and ensured that the leadership in those economies was Africanized. However, they did not do so well in the business sector because that remained dominated by foreigners. In Uganda, for example, Indians dominated the business sector until Idi Amin captured power from Apollo Milton Obote on 25 January 1971, and soon chased them out of Uganda, in what he called Economic War.
He wanted Ugandans to do the business Indians were doing. His action against Indians is the reason why many Ugandans, young and old, still talk fondly of Amin even if current leaders have called him buffoon. He was the first to bring Ugandans en masse into the business sector and put them at the centre of the sector.
However, like all other African leaders, he did not work to raise the stature of the youth. He only used them to bolster his power as soldiers, policemen and spies. Many ended up fleeing the country in one of the greatest brain drains from the Continent of Africa, never to come back. The educated ones have all their lives lived abroad.
Giving Uganda as an example of a failed State, brain drain has continued to be the greatest challenge leaders have failed to address. They have chosen to waste public money propping up an army, quite expensively, in readiness for war while at the same time talking of regional cooperation and integration.
They are also investing a lot of public money in building brutal paramilitary groups as if the aim is to control the movements and thinking of Ugandans rather than involve them in the development, transformation and progress of their country. Consequently, the greatest industry they have built is that of discontent, fear and silence.
The youths are always told there are jobs in the army, police and prisons, because the economy has not been built for absorbing the youths of Uganda to contribute to the development of the country but either not to fit in or to be just good enough to be domestic or international slaves.
The education the youths are receiving is not qualitative or properly organized. Teachers themselves appear confused. Although it would have been better to have the bulk of the youths join vocational training or technical institutions as was the case in the past, the current leaders closed most of those which existed by the time they captured the instruments of power through the barrow of the gun in 1986.
The youth are not being taught that Uganda is their country, which they must belong to. Instead, their ancestral lands where they were nurtured and grew up are being grabbed by people who belong to the nomadic-pastoral energy system, whose biological and cultural ties are more to cow and grass than land.
The young people are being forced to become internal refugees disconnected from the land, through land grabbing, just like was the case in the early 1960s when the World Bank and some corporate agribusiness firms enforced the so-called green revolution on the people of South East Asia. Most of the young people there now constitute a floating population.
Big firms own the land. The green revolution was not for the young people in the long -term. Likewise, the new settlers, the nomadic pastoralists, now own large chunks of land at the expense of the indigenous people.
The old people in the traditionally settled areas are now vulnerable, with the young people leaving the ancestral lands, either because a lot of it has been grabbed or because they, the young, want to sell it. These factors could explain the meteoric decline in agricultural production and the rising disconnection of the young people from their ancestral lands and their disinterest in agriculture.
One serious problem facing the youths in Africa in general and Uganda in particular is that the youths are increasingly being excluded from leadership. Only one ethnicity is being given the opportunity to lead. For example, the majority of Resident District Commissioners or their Deputies belong to one ethnicity.
Even in the Police, the majority of commanders or their deputies belong to one ethnicity. There are claims that even the army command is in the hands of one ethnicity. Some members of the ethnicity are known to assume the names common in other ethnicities to hide their identities.
The youths are not being taught that the principle of sharing is good: sharing the wealth of the country, sharing opportunities, sharing adversities and troubles, sharing successes, sharing the future.
They see that all the wealth and opportunities are going to one side- the side of the President, his family and his kinsmen and kinswomen, with those serving them also getting something off the carcass of Uganda.
The youths are being taught that the most lucrative employment in Uganda today is politics. So those studying now think of only one thing: seeking political office, not to lead but to make money.
Meanwhile justice and honesty have become things of the past. Those who preach honesty and justice publicly abuse these two virtues. Consequently, we are tending to create, among our youths, people without character but just characters. It is not surprising that those committing extrajudicial killings in the country are mostly youths.
It is rare to come across a youth who will listen to advice or good counsel. They have seen some of the country’s leaders despising advice and good counsel, preferring to say and do what their minds instruct them to say and do, however, deleterious.
Even constructive phrases such as “I am sorry”, “Forgive me”, “I beg your pardon” are disappearing in the language of the youths. They have no respect for those who have lived on Earth for decades. They see them as a useless lot that must die soon. No more discipline. It is unlikely that the youths of the future will take the words of leaders seriously. They will just see them as encumbrances.
All this is dangerous. Most of the youths are not being prepared to be truly patriotic, to love their country or to value respect. Even some youths are heard blaming their country as if it is the country responsible for their marginalization and disconnection from the future of the country.
On the whole the marginalized and disconnected youths are angry and hungry. They represent the future of Uganda: a country of angry, hungry youths ready to do anything in the hope that the ends will meet or in the fashion of “the end justifies the means”.
One way to rebuild the youths of Uganda, away from agonizing to organizing, is to reconstruct the sociocultural and ethicomoral fibers of the society. Reconstructing the now desecrated nation states the British colonialists found in the area they named Uganda would be the best way forward in the 21st Century.
Those nations are: Acholi, Ankole, Buganda, Bugisu, Bukedi, Bunyoro, Busoga, Karamoja, Kigezi, Lango, Moyo, Sebei, Teso, Toro and West Nile. However, the youth must know this will be counter to the interests of the current rulers of Uganda: permanent conquest, permanent occupation and continuous exploitation.
If this has to be frustrated it will be the youths, not the old and elderly, of Uganda to achieve it. But the youths must reject being divided and ruled and used to destroy each other for the benefit of others. Already some of their numbers have been aligned as security organs of the State to confront them. Otherwise, the sabotage of the youths will continue with some of their numbers at the centre of the anti-people process of sabotage.
For God and My Country
The Writer Is a Ugandan Scientist And Environmentalist
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