The youth of the East African Community yesterday received a boost with regional legislators calling out for their full involvement in integration matters. Central to the plank is a call to amend Article 50 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC to create slots for youth in the Assembly even as it reflects fair representation citizens’ diversity. The Assembly also called on all Partner States that are yet to establish National Youth Councils to do so.
The Assembly however states and succinctly so, that lobbying for youth representation at EALA and at National Parliaments/Assemblies should begin at the level of youth organisations’ at the national levels to create the desired reforms.
While still at it, legislators are also advising youth that while their efforts are appreciated, a change of strategy is necessary where they (youth) focus on developing capacities in order to realize aspirations. This is to enable them to register significant gains which lead to gainful recognition they seek at both national and regional levels.
The deliberations sum up the mood of the debate of the Assembly on the Report of the Committee on General Purpose Committee on the petition to advocate for key issues concerning the Youth in the EAC.
The petition was presented to the EALA Speaker by a team of Youth and Deputy Youth Ambassadors appointed during the 3rd EAC University Students debate. The Youth Ambassadors presented the petition in March 2015 in Bujumbura, Burundi. The salient prayers of the petition to EALA include calling for establishment of an EAC Youth Council, and advocacy for the operationalization of vibrant National Youth Councils. The petitioners also make a strong appeal to the Partner States’ National Assemblies to consider reserving slots for youth representation at the national level.
At debate time, Hon Mukasa Mbidde called for the amendment of Article 50 of the Treaty specifically to allow for specific slot(s) to be set aside for youth. Hon Maryam Ussi urged the Secretariat to establish a Youth Desk to handle youth matters that revolve around integration. On her part, Hon Susan Nakawuki affirmed that currently, youth matters were considered a priority of the 3rd Assembly. She however noted that it was important for the structures of youth participation in politics to be harmonized right from the grassroots level to the national and eventually regional level. The legislator further called on Tanzania to finalise the establishment of its National Youth Council.
Hon Shyrose Bhanji said that youth constituted a percentage of over 60% in the region and said there was need for them to be well represented.
She observed that Rwanda has a special slot for youth and urged other Partner States to follow suit.
Hon Peter Mathuki said the region could do more for the youth and said it may be necessary for them to be granted an Observer Status at the EAC.
In her remarks, the Chair of the Council of Ministers, Dr Susan A. Kolimba lauded the petitioners (East African Community Youth Ambassadors) and re-affirmed that the Council of Ministers was committed to addressing matters facing the youth.
She noted that Regional Youth Councils were greatly dependent on the vibrancy of the National Youth Councils.
“Some of the National Youth Councils are not as vibrant as they ought to be in representing and lobbying for youth Affairs,” Hon Dr Kolimba said.
The Deputy Minister said Parliament of Tanzania had last year passed a law on EAC Youth Council Act, 2015 paving way for the establishment of the EAC Youth Council once the regulations are completed and in place.
The Minister added that a framework for the establishment of the Regional Youth Council is in the process of development and the first meeting of experts to discuss the framework will be convened in the next financial year 2016/17.
Hon Dr Kolimba said that the Children and Youth position at the EAC Secretariat as recommended at the 18th Council of Ministers’ meeting was still pending.