KAMPALA – On October 23, the US Ambassador to Uganda, Ms Deborah Malac, reportedly warned youth in northern Uganda against laziness and dependency if they want to progress economically. She’s supposed to have made this statement in Gulu at a youth training on agriculture organised by Feed Future Uganda. The theme of the training was ‘Breaking the Mold, Unlocking your Potential’. According to the press, the envoy was disgusted by the slothfulness of the youth who have failed to exploit economic opportunities available to them for overcoming poverty.
“It will not happen if you just sit there and wait for it to happen, if you sit and wait for the government to do something for us, which will never happen because it is all about personal commitment, energy and maximally using the available opportunities to spur development,” the ambassador said.
“There should be critical steps everybody needs to take, you need to set goals and understand what it looks like when you reach that goal. Young people need to build support teams in order to achieve goals and follow the plans they have in place.” She was shocked that despite the abundance of land and rainfall the youth continue majoring in lamentations and excuses. She urged the youth to embrace farming as a business.
Since she made that statement, social media has been awash with opinions debating the cause, genesis and consequences of the laissez affaire attitude of youth towards farming. The meeting of more than 200 youth was intended to inspire them to take greater interest in farming. Of course, the elephant in the room is the government’s refusal to adequately fund agriculture. Most of the National Budget goes to security and infrastructure. The focus is on tear gassing youth instead of empowering them with productive skills and capital to enable them play a meaningful role in the economy.
One of the experts, Mr Markfat Odong, attributed the laziness and inability to seize available opportunities to poor attitude and mindset. As if to buttress the same point, Mr Jackson Omona, the chairperson of Kitgum District, said: “Communities now adore poverty and have given up in their own efforts to get out of it because they still believe in handouts.”
Point taken. But is it as simple as that? Let’s interrogate the indictment of the youth by going beyond the usual rhetoric. Let’s ask one simple question. Has “peace” returned to northern Uganda, or for that matter Acholiland? To put it another way: Is the war over? An honest answer would, therefore, be that the guns are silent but the war is not over. In short, what we have is negative peace. You can even call it a tentative peace.