Kampala — The First Lady, Janet Museveni, has said a dangerous tendency of fomenting divisions along tribal lines has cropped up among the youth, especially those with some education.
"Narrow negative interpretations of our tribal differences dominate our thinking," Mrs. Museveni said. "True, we have our tribal identities but instead of using the positives, we are using the negatives to foment conflict between our people," she added. The First Lady was officiating at the opening of the National Youth Convention at Makerere University.
The convention, to discuss issues affecting the youth, has attracted over 8,000 youth from all districts in Uganda, with each sending 50 participants. Mrs. Museveni cited an incident during a youth conference in Ngora in Teso, where participants from Karamoja refused to share a dormitory with those from Teso.
"They were not even ashamed to say that the reason they could not sleep in the same place with them was because of tribal differences. This is how pathetic we appear to the outside world. At this time when Americans are teaming up with the Russians, their former enemies, to go into space, African students are refusing to share dorms because of petty differences," she lamented.
Mrs. Museveni said because of the petty differences, people kill each other in futile conflicts. "God will not bless a nation where people shed others' blood because of their tribes. This nation has attracted God's curse because of our behaviour," she said.
"It is up to the young to break this curse so that they can release the blessings that God intended for Uganda. Your fortunes are tied together and are tied to the fortunes of the nation," Mrs. Museveni said.
She also decried what she called selfishness of especially the educated who leave the country as soon as they are educated by the same nation. "They bite the hand that fed them and they appease their consciences by blaming whichever government is there. These are a few of the ills that have beset our nation. We need to consciously make our minds to succeed," she said.
Mrs. Museveni also cautioned the youth against engaging in reckless sexual behaviour and alcohol consumption. She warned that these could hamper their ability for innovation. She also castigated those who think that they can find solutions in witchdoctors. "There are no shortcuts to wealth. That is a mother's words of wisdom to her children." She also castigated those promoting homosexuality, which she described as an abomination in the African culture.
"In God's word, homosexuality attracts a curse, but now people are engaging in it and saying they are created that way. It is for money The devil is stoking fires to destroy our nation and those taking advantage are doing so because our people are poor," she said. Mrs. Museveni advised the youth not only to listen to messages on how they can make money but also focus on spiritual growth. "You know that you will lose everything else when you lose your soul.
The youth convention will discuss ways young people can start enterprises to generate jobs. Currently, Uganda releases 480,000 graduates every year, 30,000 of them with university degrees, but only 80,000 get formal employment. The executive director of Enterprise Uganda, Charles Ocici, said there was urgent need for the youth to realise that resources they need to start enterprises do not have to come from external sources.
Ocici noted that several hindrances to entrepreneurship in Uganda had been identified. Among them, he said, was the dependency syndrome where people think only about being funded to start businesses or being employed by someone else. He said that was why many youth moan about lack of jobs or opportunities to gain experience even when there are chances in their own homes to generate income.
This, Ocici said, is coupled with the negative pride of shunning menial jobs, preferring to walk the streets looking for office employment. This is closely followed by what he called the public opinion syndrome, where the youth fear certain jobs because others may not think highly of them.
Other people, Ocici said, are looking for a perfect opportunity to invest, which he said never comes. He said some enterprises fail because the owners fail to set boundaries between themselves as individuals and their business entities. "A business entity has two identities; the biological and the non-biological.
The non-biological cannot exist without the biological," Ocici said. The biological entity is the mind behind the business, while the non-biological is the business entity, he elaborated. The two entities should have separate accounts so that the entrepreneur does not misuse the capital, Ocici advised.
The youth asked for government policies that reflect their needs and how their potential can be exploited. They also said the education system should be changed to make it more relevant to the needs of the people and the country.