Eleven presidential aspirants in Uganda started nationwide political campaigns, with jobs at the top of most candidates’ pledges as they seek to win the hearts of the country’s youthful voters in next year’s election.
Ten candidates are seeking to unseat President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for the past 35 years. The 10 include Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine (National Unity Platform), Patrick Oboi Amuriat (Forum for Democratic Change), Norbert Mao (Democratic Party) and Gen Mugisha Muntu (Alliance for National Transformation).
Others are independent candidates former spy chief Gen Henry Tumukunde, Joseph Kabuleta, Willy Mayambala, Fred Mwesigye, Nancy Kalembe — the only female vying — and John Katumba the youngest, at 24.
The election will be held January 14.
Top in the manifestos of most candidates is unemployment and how they plan to create jobs for millions of Ugandans.
According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the national unemployment rate is 9.2 per cent, while that for youth aged 18-30 is 13.3 per cent, in a country of 41.49 million people.
Over 70 per cent of Uganda’s population is aged under 30, and many of them jobless. The World Bank estimates that Uganda’s working-age population will increase by 13 million people by 2030.
The battle for the presidency revolves around how to clinch the youth vote.
Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a lecturer of political history at Makerere University, says promises of employment, equality in job distribution and social justice could win a candidate more votes.
President Museveni has over the years instituted several job and wealth creation initiatives to directly or indirectly benefit the youth but all, including recent ones like Operation Wealth Creation and the Youth Livelihood Programme, have not yielded the much needed results.
In his 2016 election, President Museveni’s slogan was “Steady Progress” and he has strategically ditched it for the youth-leaning one of “Securing Your Future,” which he says is a promise to use the existing infrastructure like roads, electricity and ICT to create jobs and wealth.
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Bobi Wine, has promised to create at least five million jobs in his first five years in office. The jobs, according to the party’s manifesto will be created through “massive investments in technology and grand scale industrialisation.”
Mr Amuriat said his party’s policy shift will see a lean government and reduction in government expenditure to save money for investment in key sectors that will generate jobs.
Mr Kabuleta, who is running under the “financial liberation” slogan promises to use the country’s resources for the benefit of all citizens.