Over 200 youth trainees at the Presidential Skilling Centre in Zombo district, northern Uganda on Tuesday walked out on their army instructors, citing ill-treatment. President Yoweri Museveni started the youth program in 2017 to help youths, especially school drops out to attain income-generating skills.
The youths packed their bags and threatened to return to their home districts citing harassment by the Uganda People's Defence instructors. It took the intervention of Zombo district officials led by the resident district commissioner (RDC), Lt Col. (Rtd) Pius Alitema who rushed to the Zeu-based skilling centre and pleaded with the youths to calm down.
They accused the UPDF instructors of caning them and waking them up very early. The trainees also claimed that some of the instructors deny them food and gag them from expressing their views. Phillip Oryem Anwangkani, the manager of the Presidential Skilling Center has however dismissed the allegations describing them as baseless.
"The grievances which they even aired out were things never to do with management because we have never participated in the appointment of leaders and so on," said Anwangkani.
Roy Masendi, the Zeu sub-county councillor blamed the trainees for lack of seriousness, saying they are indifferent to the skills training program.
"The problem which we're facing here is that some of these students don't know why they are here. They have packed their bags and are going home, the reason is the soldiers who are giving them mindset change training are over-beating them. Others were complaining of the time that they were waking them to go for morning errands, others are complaining about food," he said.
Francis Bolingo, the Athuma sub-county LC V councillor notes that there is a need to evaluate the deployment of UPDF instructors at the facility when civilians could be used to give the required skills. The protest comes just two weeks before the pass out of the trainees following their enrolment in August this year.