Political risk exposed
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME AND JULIAN SABIITI | Some of them forged documents. Others bribed. Many were rejected and many fainted in the physical recruitment training. But still they did not give up.
The countrywide recruitment of Local Defense Unit (LDUs) that started on July 15 attracted an unprecedented number of applicants, mainly male youth aged between 19 and 30 years old and holders of a Uganda Certificate of Education or O’Level certificate.
In Rubaga Division of Kampala city, only 156 were required but over 1000 showed up at the recruitment grounds at Mutesa II Stadium in Wankulukuku Stadium.
Similar scenes were repeated across the country as heavily perspiring young men and a few women, the men with only trousers on and no shirts queued in the baking sweltering July sun to be screened. They were made to jump, squat, roll in the grass, and open their mouths to be poked in health checks.
In the end, the recruiters fought battles to get those rejected to accept their fate. And for the successful recruits, what was the prize? A job with a Shs200, 000 wage per month (Approx.US$55 or the price of 100kg of maize flour).
Even then, the LDU job is not regular employment. The government is looking for 13,000 recruits across the country to bolster the numbers of the Reserve Force of the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF). In fact, the most these youth can expect to earn is Shs800,000 over four months – if it is paid at all. So why were these young fighting to be recruited? The answers varied depending on who you asked.
Emmanuel Opio, a technician, is among those who went for the LDU recruitment. He went to the recruitment in Kumi on July 22 but failed to get through. So why did he want so badly to become an LDU? Another recruitment exercise happened in Soroti on July 21.
“I did a course in mechanics but it is very hard to get work here in Ngora,” he told The Independent.
Then he added: “Besides finding work, I am a patriot. Some of us have love for our country and we want to serve.”
Herbert Anderson Burora the Resident District Commission (RDC) of Nakawa Division in Kampala also saw it as a great opportunity.
“They are not going to earn Shs100, 000. They are going to earn Shs200, 000 and remember they will be given food, accommodation.”
“If you are going to be given where to sleep and some other basic medical care, surely that is some good employment.”
Burora has a reason to feel that way. He is a government agent and among the least paid. He earns Shs1.5 million, has an official car and house and other allowances.
Elia Alitia, the opposition Democratic Party (DP) vice president for northern Uganda, agrees with the RDC.
“Most of them are looking for survival. The turn up in Arua was over 2000 and a small number from that was absorbed. The general issue is that they are desperate and being recruited in the LDU is a good thing.
“Some of them approached me thinking that I was influential in the recruitment process because my office is near where they were recruiting from.”
But Andrew Mujinya, a health activist, saw it differently.
“They are rushing to join LDU due to the deplorable levels of unemployment,” he told The Independent, “There is no source of income. They know they will thrive on the corruption since they will be in positions of authority.
“When they get guns, in such a society, they know it can be a tool where even these guns can be given out to gangs.”
“Youths are looking for an entry point, a way through which they can reach the hand of government. They know that the 2021 polls are approaching and the president always has a recruitment plan for youth where giving of money is involved,” said Saviour Nakakembo who described herself as a feminist and activist, “These youth know that there is a chance of accessing that money since the LDUs will be involved in the election one way or another.”
Nahori Oya, the Arua RDC said people are not chasing LDU jobs only.
“People are yearning for unemployment everywhere. That’s why people are involved in human trafficking,” he told The Independent, “Unemployment is a serious matter; that’s why government is coming up with skilling programmes. People are facing a lot of challenges.”