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24-year-olds should be interning not contesting the presidency

24-year-old presidential candidate John Katumba

24-year-old presidential candidate John Katumba

The scene is a media house somewhere in Lubaga. Journalists have taken their positions with their cameras mounted on tripods, earpieces plugged in, and their fingertips on the shutter button.

A speeding Shs 200 million brand new pickup truck with counter-terrorism and VIP protection police with sirens blaring moves into the compound followed by a tenth-hand, Toyota Raum. When the pickup truck comes to a screeching halt, the police guards commonly known as Sharp Shooters, wearing body armour and the darkest of sunglasses, jump off and take positions with their fingertips on the trigger hooks of their AK-47s.

In the Toyota Raum, one of the counter-terrorism policemen jumps out of the co-driver’s seat, makes a salute and slides open the backdoor. A young man in chinos and a blazer that seems a size too small jumps out and stretches a bit — an indication of an uncomfortable ride he has just taken in the battered Raum as it hit Kampala’s potholes too many times.

The scene resembles a plot from a Wakaliwood movie, only that the Wakalihood actors can’t afford brand new pickups and genuine Kalashnikovs. It is presidential candidate John Katumba arriving for an interview. Katumba has somewhat captured the imagination of the nation with his theatrics.

During his nomination to run for president, he claimed he didn’t have a car and security doesn’t allow him to ride in the police pick up that opens the traffic for him. So, he decided to walk. I heard that this particular Raum he was riding was offered by a controversial self-promoting pastor.

Katumba is perhaps the youngest candidate to contest for the Ugandan presidency. He is 24 years old and barely out of his school nappies. Most 24-year olds in Uganda like Katumba himself have zero skills having spent an incredible amount of time in an education system that is based on cramming to pass exams.

Candidate Katumba, who now claims that he can’t afford a car to campaign, paid the Electoral Commission a whopping Shs 20m as registration fees and managed to gather the required number of signatures of registered voters from a big part of the country. How did he raise this money that he paid without batting an eye?

The majority of 24-year-olds in Uganda have never seen Shs 20m but Katumba found it and paid it to contest in a race he will not be able to win. I have heard and read on social media that Katumba’s candidature gives him the exposure that will create a springboard for his future career.

It is a nice argument until you look at similar candidates of the previous presidential elections. Maureen Kyalya and Joseph Mabirizi went into oblivion long before the ink put on the fingernails of voters had dried. I believe it will be the same for Katumba and Willy Mayambala, another presidential candidate, who appeared at Vision Group too hungry and thirsty last week given the way he was munching a doughnut offered to him.

Innocent Kawooya (L), a contestant for the Kampala lord mayorship, donates gadgets to 24-year-old presidential aspirant John Katumba

There is nothing wrong with a 24-year-old having ambition and even dreaming but I believe that dreams and ambitions must be realistic to make sense. I have been told that some young people inform their parents that school isn’t that important as they quickly name American tech entrepreneurs who made it big without completing their academic degrees, forgetting that the environment is different.

Katumba and other 24-year-olds shouldn’t be contesting the presidency and we shouldn’t cheer them on as people with ambition. 24-year- olds should be interning, getting the skills they need to solve some of the challenges of their time. Katumba should have been busy organizing for other candidates, learning the politics that would help him when he is mature and with resources to contest the presidency.

He should have been interning, helping some candidates run their digital media platforms or supporting as a strategist, especially with the youth he claims to represent. Kantumba’s candidature points to a systematic failure in our country — the lack of career guidance for most of our young people.

Many have no idea of what careers they must pursue spending an enormous amount of time and resources doing stuff that will never help them in any way. There is a need to guide young people to meaningful careers. Politics should be a means to serve people not looking at it as a job like it has been made to be today.

Politics shouldn’t be the only option for a good job for most people. It is time we considered career guidance, internship and meaningful pathways to professional growth.


The writer is a communication and visibility consultant.


+1 #1 Concerned Ugandan 2020-11-24 15:16
The fact remains that this 24 year old has opted to enter a space where too many "elites" inclusive of the author of this article all fear to tread.

Such persons indeed need to be mentored but we also need to consider whether they themselves appreciate the need for mentoring.

When a baby tries to walk and falls, we do not ridicule the baby and castigate it for not having sought mentoring and internship prior to walking!

The baby at that point has no appreciation of the value of mentoring and support! Instead we commend the baby for the initiative displayed and encourage and even help the baby to take more steps.

The Katumbas of this world should be allowed to pursue their dreams without being discouraged from daring to venture where others are content only to sit on sidelines as armchair politicians and critics. Going by the author's reasoning babies should first wait for internship or mentoring before attempting to walk!
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0 #2 Akao 2020-11-24 21:45
I completely agree with the author. Being a president requires some experience and mental maturity.

You don,t just jump from the university desk to contesting for presidency. Ugandans are just too confused to follow anything.

I guess nothing can be as bas as M7. This kid should start by joining someone with experience and work under them if he interested in political career
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