All Ugandan Youth to undergo compulsory military training

Who recalls Chaka mchaka? the mandatory paramilitary programme that was famous until the early 2000s.

Though the reasons for its disbandment are not clear, the Government plans to reintroduce the programme, according to Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, the state minister for youth and children affairs.

Through the programme, the Government taught youth self-defence skills and patriotism. According to the ministry, the paramilitary programme will be incorporated in the National Youth Service Bill, which is at the formulation stage.

The proposed bill seeks to introduce the National Youth Service scheme. Speaking to journalists at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala last week, Nakiwala said the principles of the Bill have been developed and are before Cabinet.

In an interview with New Vision, Francis Mondo Kyateka, the assistant commissioner for youth affairs at the gender ministry, said the youth service scheme will be mandatory to all youth below 30 years. If it goes according to plan, Kyateka said the National Youth Service Scheme will be designed in clusters; that is, after both primary school and secondary school education.

At primary, Kyateka said, pupils, will be taught about sexual reproductive health, corruption and messages against HIV/AIDS, among others. Whereas after secondary, he said, similar messages will be crafted, but, the ministry will include entrepreneurship, unity and patriotism, against corruption and with Chaka mchaka. At every stage, he said, certificates of completion will be issued to candidates.

According to proposals, for anyone to get a job, or join a higher institution of learning, they will be required to present national youth service certificates, alongside academic documents.

“Yes, we will have some Chaka mchaka kind of training, but we want to instil the country’s values in the populace,” he said. “Other countries are doing it and it has worked. I think if it goes according to plan, the future of the country will be secure,” he added.

Kyateka is optimistic that by the end of this year, the principles of the Bill will have been approved and that they will embark on the formulation of the draft. If it goes according to plan, Uganda will not be the first African country to do it.

Several African countries, such as Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa have national youth service schemes. However, the scheme is more profound in Nigeria, where it started in 1975. Nigeria’s National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was set up to involve Nigerian graduates in nation-building and the development of the country.

According to the NYSC portal, there is no military conscription in Nigeria, but since 1973, all graduates both from universities and vocational and technical colleges are required to undergo mandatory service for a year.

In Kenya, a voluntary programme was introduced soon after they attained independence in 1964. Recently, the country moved a motion proposing the scheme to be mandatory. These are trained in many life skills, including paramilitary, engineering, fashion and design, business management, catering, agriculture, secretarial, plant operation, construction and driving.