One of the more apparent truths of life is the old adage that it is easier to go downhill than uphill. Similar incantations observe that breaking something is easier than putting it back together. Perhaps all this may be explained by the election of Uganda’s youngest MP-elect Proscovia Alengot Oromait who was born in 1993 when I was still doing my O’ levels. For me, this is the best Public Relations (PR) Museveni has ever pulled such that the opposition are gonna find it difficult to put this one in the bin. NRM couldn’t have hired a better public relations person than Alengot.
This is way up there with the best I have ever seen in politics such that If anybody in the opposition tries to shoot this development down, the world will look at them as: ‘freedom hating, bigoted honourables’. The best way out of this for the opposition is to compile some evidence that may probably lead to cancellation of results, thus, another by-election.
This regime (I mean the whole regime, not just president Museveni) has unlimited funds for public relations, and they have been hiring the best, including Andrew Mwenda’s so called reconciliation series in his magazine, but this is the best they have done so far. I can see all the youths jumping up and down dreaming about becoming MPs and presidents in future. Every young man and woman is going to dream now to become something because of Alengot’s election as MP in Usuk. What better way to pull the youths towards NRM than this?
If this had happened in 1994 when I was secretary and Vice chairman Kibuli.S.S Political Education Club, I would have jumped my A’levels to stand for MP straightway. Why not? I’m also allowed to dream, right?
Just to keep this preposterous public relations ploy in perspective, I have compiled a handy list to show people how Museveni is going to use this young girl to promote himself and the party among the youths: Arengot will appear in HIV/AIDS campaigns; Arengot will appear in the 2016 newly branded ‘Mpekoni’ song; Arengot will probably become a state minister after 2016 and M7 will appear to be promoting a leader within for the first time; Arengot will probably become married soon to promote the accepted moral structures, after all she is already promoting the de-facto national dress(Buganda’s gomes), Arengot will be on our TV and newspapers so often, e.t.c
The debate over whether she has enough experience to be an effective MP obscures the real questions: When is a vote for a young candidate reasonable? Why has NRM turned to the young ones to produce their base in parliament? Is Museveni trying to repair what he has broken? Is Museveni becoming wiser in the old age?
These are questions we should be asking ourselves, after all, the world has seen young people becoming something big before. For instance, Dr.Besigye was in Museveni’s cabinet at the age of 28, I think. USA’s newly elected Republican representative Aaron Schock, is the youngest member of Congress at 28. Donald Rumsfeld is a Princeton graduate who became the youngest Secretary of Defense in the history of USA. Dr. Condoleezza Rice graduated high school at the age of 15 and earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Denver in 1974 (at age 19); her master’s from the University of Notre Dame in 1975; and her Ph.D. from the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver in 1981. Additionally, Dr. Rice began piano studies at age 3 and took up competitive figure skating in high school (rising at 4:30 am to practice before school).
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was at a Democratic Party Convention as Keynoter a few days ago. He is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School (like his twin brother Joaquin, a Texas state representative), and in 2009 he became the youngest mayor of a top 50 U.S. city. I watched him on TV seated next to Michelle Obama during the convention and I thought: ‘ouch, some people are lucky!’
Basically, at the age of 18 all parental responsibility is legally ended and the person is considered to be an adult, fully able to make, and take responsibility for, all of their choices. If Arego was 17 years old, the critics would have a point but 19? Well I suppose it’s really only matters if you are in the opposition and realise that Museveni has scored where he was least expected to score. It looks like all the opposition wins in byelections have been overshadowed by this PR stunt, and i really feel sorry for them. I bet few people are now talking about Butambala and Muwanga Kivumbi yet it was a massive achievement for Ssubi and DP.
The right to vote, to drink, to smoke, to drive, etc. are all restricted to those who have reached 18 years old. The reason primarily is that it is assumed that until one reaches a certain age they cannot be trusted to act responsibly in regard to these things.
The best thing for a child is what the parent says is the best thing for their child (excluding physical and sexual abuse) but Arengot’s dad is dead, and his death seems to have given the daughter a life line. If she can survive questioning without contradicting herself, and can produce any developments in her constituency, then she will be MP for a good number of years.
All she needs to do is to be open with her thoughts and willing to share what information she can, and remain guarded – cautious and thoughtful in a manner critics will mistaken as cold.
Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba