A more youthful style of politics

Uganda’s younger politicians are get­ting into their stride. The country’s ninth parliament, voted into office in February 2011, now has an average age of 43, which is two years less than that of its predecessor.

The younger legislators have not dis­appointed so far, leading the anti-cor­ruption crusade and dusting off several controversial issues that had been qui­etly swept under the carpet. Since the ninth parliament first sat in May 2011, it has pressured six ministers into re­signing over alleged corruption, and is currently investigating the conduct of at least five others, including Prime Minis­ter Amama Mbabazi.

The ongoing push to clean up govern­ment is led by an informal bipartisan coalition of young legislators from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and the opposition. A key question is whether the mostly young legislators can transform their alliance in parliament into bipartisan pressure for political reform in a country that has been rocked by public displays of discontent by different groups since the 2011 general elections.

In addition to fighting against corrup­tion, Gerald Karuhanga, a 29-year-old MP for the FDC, said younger legisla­tors hope to lead the push for key po­litical reforms, including the restoration of term limits in the constitution. But he did not see their alliance becoming a lasting political force, because party loyalties are likely to prevent legislators from transcending the neutral platform they have so far created.

The NRM deputy spokesperson, Of­wono Opondo, said there was up to an 80 percent change in leadership at local council level during the February 2011 general elections, in addition to the high turnover of MPs, but that there was no change at the top because no one was ready to take the mantle from President Yoweri Museveni.

“Let the young people also run for president within the NRM or anywhere else if they want,” he said. “If you say Museveni is old, bring someone young who can defeat him. But you can’t say he is old, tired and corrupt [if] you can’t bring someone to defeat him.”


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Amnesty International