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EAC youth plot leadership role

Participants at the YouLead summit in Arusha, Tanzania on Nov. 11 (Photo: YouLead)

A mix of politics, music, culture at YouLead Summit 2019

Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | Over 250 youth from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan who converged in Arusha, Tanzania for the 2019 YouLead Summit were urged to rise up, take leadership roles and political power to see the change they desire in their countries. The message was contained in events and discussions held during the summit from Nov.11-13.

In the sixth year running and held under the theme ‘Youth at the Crossroads: Migration, Participation and Access to Opportunities’, the summit had an array of speakers like National Youth Female MP for Uganda Anne Adeke; Tanzania’s youthful MP Upendo Furaha; Kenya’s deputy governor for Kajiado county Martin Moshisho, 33, who narrated their challenges and experiences in taking up leadership positions.

“There are a lot of stereotypes I have to deal with. When I went to campaign, elders asked me whether I am married,” Adeke told the audience at the Cultural Arts Centre, Tumaini University. “My father told me to concentrate on my career and join the academia,” she added.

Tanzania’s Upendo insisted that political participation is the only way out. “It is critical that youth are involved in politics. It is where the resources are distributed, it determines their access to resources.”

Michael Wani, a youth leader, political and civil society activist from South Sudan say the youth have stood up to the government of President Salva Kiir in his country. “For the first time in South Sudan, there is a minister for Youth who is a youth!” Wani in his 30s, said at the summit, to applause from fellow young people.

The Cultural Arts Centre at Tumaini University was a sea of white as participants were dressed in YouLead summit branded T-shirts on the first day of the largest gathering of youths in East Africa.

Kenyan opinion leader, photojournalist and human rights activist Boniface Mwangi spoke about running a political campaign on a shoe string budget. In the 2017 general elections in Kenya, Mwangi contested as an MP for Starehe and lost. “We raised Kshs15m ($150,000) from the public.”

Mwangi urged the youth attending to attain political education and get organised in political movements if they want to take power and use it constructively. “Bobi Wine will not take power if he is not organised,” he said.

There were other speakers like former Burundian President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, who was the oldest person at the summit. He had the same message for the youth. “Take power and change these countries because no one else can do for you what you want.”

Ntibantunganya said he joined politics at the age of 23 while at university and was always active. “I was 37 when I became president. So nothing should stop you from doing what you want to do while at your age.”

Burundian youth and other participants put him to task on his short-lived presidency from 1994-1996 such as the opportunities he created for the youth to advance socio-economically and politically.

Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Martin Ngoga gave the keynote address for the summit. Ngoga urged the youth to be politically active and be drivers of change and seize the abundant opportunities in their countries and the region.

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