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Muslim Youth Development Platform seminar

Closing remarks by Rt. Hon Amama Mbabazi at Muslim Youth Development Platform seminar under the theme: “the role of Muslim youth in shaping Uganda’s political future.”

Makerere University Main Hall, 14th August 2015 

The Lord Mayor Honourable Erias Lukwago, Honourable Members of Parliament, Distinguished speakers and guests:

I am honoured to have been invited here today by the brilliant young minds that constitute the Muslim Youth Development Platform. I am honoured to be part of this conversation because the youth are the central stakeholders of both the present and the future and a central part of our mission to transform Uganda into a modern, industrialised and prosperous society.

A few days ago the world celebrated International Youth Day. Coincidentally, the theme of this years celebration was “Youth Civic Engagement”. Fortuitously, the question we all came here to explore today, of the role of Muslim youth in shaping Uganda’s political future, was given an answer two days ago by the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon who said this:

“I call on young people to demand and foster the dramatic progress so urgently needed in our world.”

Today I want to urge the same of not just Muslim youth but all Ugandan youth. Our country is at a crossroads, stuck between old and new visions of development and governance. And so now, more than ever, this country needs your voice and your energy. 

I was just 22 years old and almost fresh out of Ntare School when I joined the liberation struggle. I did not know it but everything about Ntare had prepared me for this fight: an excellent academic and co-curricular education and the spirit and energy of a school whose motto is “The Lion Roars!” It did not occur to me that the future of this country was in someone else’s hands, certainly not someone older.

And yet when I talk to young people today, I find that whilst they feel they will inherit the future, they don’t feel that they can engineer it; but it simply cannot make sense that those who are set to inherit the assets and liabilities of the present generation of leadership have no say on the processes therein.

This way of being has not come about because the youth are lazy or apathetic. Rather, I think it is imbedded in our culture. We Ugandans rightly revere the wisdom of age for decision-making but wrongly disregard the valuable faculties of youth for the same: imagination, energy, strength and courage. 

This has to change. 

The youth hold a profound position in society not only as those who will inherit the future but as the futures’ advocates. Once you realise this position, you begin to understand the importance of your political participation: highlighting gaps in policy and failures of government; highlighting injustices against women, children, students and other groups; advocating for your needs as youth like jobs, valuable skills and better healthcare, as well as advocating for better governance.

But it is also your role to see progress, to cherish it, as well as foster it.

James Wolfensohn, former president of the World Bank, had this to say about the part young people play in building up society: “The first thing we need to do is to recognise that youth have a contribution to make. The second thing is that we need to give them responsibility for designing the sort of world that they want.”

My young friends, you are the gatekeepers of the world you want and this countries promise; so step up to the podium and speak out. 

My parting word is this: the world we live in is always changing and these days it changes fast; August’s wisdom may not belong to January and so I task you to be open to new ideas and to never stop learning. 

Most of all, I task you to imagine a better Uganda. And once you’ve imagined it — fight for it.

Thank You.