The head of the European Union mission in Uganda ambassador Attillio Pacifici has said youth in Uganda should be given an opportunity to express themselves without fear of repercussions because that’s what democracy demands.
Speaking at the International Youth Day organized by Creating Africa with support from the European Union in Bugolobi Design Hub under the theme ‘Creating safe spaces for young people,' Pacifici said instead of governments seeking to gag its young people they should engage them to get solutions for the issues bedevilling them like the rampant unemployment.
He said he was also dismayed that the different poverty alleviation projects don’t target youths in the countryside.
“It’s very worrying that many initiatives like the youth fund have difficulties in extending access to finance beyond the area of Kampala,” Pacifici said.
He encouraged the youth to continue working together in partnerships to share ideas on different platforms that can help them get out of poverty.
“Uganda has one of the world’s youngest population but unfortunately also one of the highest youth unemployment,” Pacifici said.
Nicholas Opiyo, a human rights lawyer, echoed the ambassador’s message calling on young people to fight for their rights especially that of expression.
He implored them to make use of the place where they can ably express themselves without fearing that what they say might backfire. He criticized the government for introducing the now controversial tax on social media which he said was aimed at limiting young people from accessing information and expressing themselves in a more comfortable way.
“It’s a violation of human rights and limits the space in which youths operate. Youths must know their rights because it is the only way they can claim them. Safe spaces should be your natural entitlements,” Opiyo said.
He also lashed out on government for failure to translate the Constitution to local languages as demanded by article 4 of the 1995 Constitution.
“The state has deliberately refused to do it and this keeps more Ugandans who don’t know English ignorant about their natural entitlements and therefore cannot be in a position to claim them,” Opiyo said.
Mildred Apenyo one of the panelists urged the government to respect and protect the rights of everyone including sexual minorities. She also called upon women to engage in all societal issues and desist from leaving them to only men.
“We most affected by the decision that these men make; so, we must make sure that we are part of them,” Apenyo said.