Uganda has made great strides which have led to inclusion of the youth as major stakeholders in the democratization process.
The hallmark of our inclusive democratic processes was the establishment of a dedicated and semi-autonomous National Youth Council (NYC) in 1993 as an umbrella organization for all the youth of Uganda.
It was established to organize the youth in a unified body; engage the youth in activities that are of benefit to them and the nation; and to protect the youth against any kind of manipulation. The NYC secretariat implements policy decisions and is the nerve centre of decisions on youth policy.
On February 22, 2021, cabinet took a decision to merge, mainstream and rationalize government agencies, commissions, authorities and public expenditure to facilitate efficient and effective service delivery and also approved a roadmap for the implementation process.
The NYC is one of the agencies identified for merging under the ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development. The approved model is to merge the NYC secretariat with the National Children’s Authority, the National Women’s Council secretariat, the Council for Older Persons and the Council for Persons with Disability.
The structures of the NYC have over 700,000 members from village, parish, sub-county, district and national leadership. In 2021, the NYC presented to then prime minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda over 20,000 signatures of the membership of the youth council from the district level alone, who disagreed with any move by government to merge the council with any agency of government.
CONTENTIONS AGAINST MERGER
In accordance to Section 9 of the principal Act (Cap 319), the NYC executive committee is required to play an oversight role on the affairs of the secretariat. The proposed model will render this very important role redundant and taken over by the Gender ministry and that of Public service.
This compromises the autonomy of the council as prescribed in Section 2 subsection 2 of the NYC Act, which provides that the council shall be a body corporate, shall have perpetual succession and a common seal and may sue or be sued in its corporate name.
It is the youths’ interest for the council to maintain a specialized nerve centre purposely committed to youth programming.
The secretariat is required to carry out seven core functions as stipulated in the NYC Act. Merging a greater number of functions of different councils will always increase the span of control that one secretariat is required to cover, thereby requiring, for instance, one person to remain on top of many different functions.
This is a primary drawback to the “fusion” model proposed. Given the political history of the country characterized by the manipulation and misuse of the youth, the NYC secretariat is needed to focus on the nature of political tooling and engagement youth are absorbed into.
This work requires expediency and quick decision making at times especially in cases where the youth of Uganda must pronounce themselves on issues that may compromise our sovereignty but are disguised as in our favor.
The NYC secretariat as an organ was put in place as a panacea to youth manipulation and abuse. There is concern that removal of the secretariat would eliminate this purpose of strategically-directing the youth of this country in the time needed for response due to the new nature of bureaucracy to facilitate the youth political action.
Meanwhile, many youth organizations will crop up to fill the vacuum left by a single coordinating secretariat. This will bring about the problem of uncoordinated and briefcase bodies whose objectives may not be in the best interest of the vision of the country in building a patriotic and Pan-African youth population.
There is also concern that without the NYC secretariat, it will be difficult to motivate work on research, gathering and preparing background information on various youth issues, among other youth-centric initiatives aimed at government studies of the youth population and consequential government programming and recommendations.
Lastly, the lack of a specialized NYC secretariat will limit the capacity of the proposed merged entity to help carry out the decisions made by the various organs of the NYC such as the NYC meeting and district youth councils meetings.
In conclusion, I speak for the youth of Uganda who are against changing formation of their secretariat because for several years, their office promoted ownership, pride and sustainability of interventions; This request goes to President Museveni to halt the process of merging the NYC with other entities.
There is also need for wider consultation on the proposed merger so that the NYC is in better position to serve the youth of this country.
The writer is NYC Vice Chairperson and co-authored it with the NYC executive committee