Every Generation Must Define its Challenges

Date: September 1 st 2017


Yesterday I attended the Nelson Mandela memorial lecture at Makerere University main hall together with Ms. Zoleka Mandela (Mandela's granddaughter) and president Museveni. I took part in a panel discussion held under the theme, NELSON MANDELA THE LEGEND: LESSONS TO THE YOUTH.

My communication was that; What we, as young people need to think about today is what made Mandela great and what lessons we can draw from him.

Of course, there are so many things to say about Madiba but because of time I pointed out three.

First of all, Mandela as a young man, together with his comrades decided to give himself to the cause of his country. He grew up in a country where black people were excluded; where it was a sin to be black. Although Mandela was a son of a chief, he looked with indignation at the suffering of his people. He decided to identify with his people and in the process, liberate them. And that is also true of the generation of President Museveni. He and his colleagues realized the problems that were affecting the country of Uganda. What did they do? They did not fold hands. They did not become spectators. They decided to take an active part in emancipating their country and in the process made several achievements.

Therefore, the young people today must also understand what is at stake. Look at the levels of unemployment. The levels of poverty. The exclusion. The corruption. In a country where over 80% of our people are below the age of 35, our cabinet ministers can hardly keep awake when the President is giving the state of the nation address because of old age. The young people have been excluded.

Therefore, I think our generation, just like Mandela and Museveni’s generations must correctly diagnose the problems of our country and stand up to address them. The question I asked young people was, if President Museveni or Nelson Mandela was a young person in Uganda today, what would he do? As Mandela said, “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” So, our generation must wake up and realize what is at stake.

The second point was that Mandela embodied all the qualities of leadership that are very scarce in Uganda today, and indeed in African-patriotism, pan-Africanism, conviction and courage. Mandela believed in democracy, good governance and the rule of law. His main interest was not himself but his country. He did not merely talk about democracy, but he practiced it. Many of us remember that in 1999 when he retired from active politics and decided to leave office of president, he was still very much loved by the population. If he had wanted, he would perhaps win with 90% of the vote. But Mandela believed that his country was not barren. That his generation could peacefully retire and let the young turks run their country while the older generation offered advice and guidance. He exemplified servant-leadership in his inauguration speech telling all people that “I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people.” These are lessons which both the young and indeed the old leaders must learn from Mandela.

Finally, and very importantly, Mandela embraced all people. He believed in the idea that all persons are created equal and that all of them, regardless of age, religion, ethnicity or creed, should be given an opportunity to succeed. He believed in human dignity and worked for it. I believe that young Ugandans should shun all forms of chauvinism and work for the unity of Uganda and the unity of Africa. Young people in Uganda should never look at themselves in the lenses of religion, tribe or political party, but as Ugandans, as Africans. As people whose interest is social, economic progress and leaving a better country for their children and their grandchildren.

Every generation must define its challenges. For Kwame Nkrumah, Nyerere, Thomas Sankara and others, it was colonialism. For Mandela, it was apartheid. For President Museveni and his generation, it was instability caused by bad politics. For our generation, it is unemployment, corruption and lack of opportunity in part caused by poor governance practices.

We live in a different world today. Technology is advanced. The opportunity to develop ourselves and transform our society are abundant. We can only limit ourselves.

Young people therefore should remember that as Mandela said, "SOMETIMES IT FALLS UPON A GENERATION TO BE GREAT, YOU CAN BE THAT GENERATION"
Rise up and take part in leadership right from LC1 up to President. Work hard, love your country, love Africa and let us all think about the next generation, not the next general election.

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