The skaters in Dr Kizza Besigye’s crowd

The hullabaloo of Presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye’s Kampala crowds is beginning to die out.  This was kind of expected, though.  We are holding our breath to see if these crowds will perform at encore at his final rally in Kampala in February 2016 given the fact that there is something called crowd fatigue. However, it was such a relief not to have a noticeable menacing police presence.  I can only imagine the chaos that would have erupted had the Ant-riot police so much as lifted a finger against Dr Besigye or his crowd. As crowds go, there has been a debate about the quality of people the three time presidential contender attracts.  However, what stood out for me on November 5, 2015, the second day of presidential nominations were the skaters. Dressed in blue, FDC branded shirts; they held hands together and skated in a long line.  I wonder how they managed it with such a big crowd around and about them.

Besides, it had also rained heavily that morning.  The slippery surface of the road might have posed a problem but the stretch from Mandela National Stadium, Namboole to the Kampala city centre is a pretty good distance. I wonder what the good doctor has in store for this particular section of the youth; most of whom looked to be below 25-years of age. In addition, being youth, they are probably not in gainful or steady employment, if you are to go by the statistics being dished out by research agencies. While Uganda has one of the highest proportion of young people in the world, there is little agreement on the scope of youth unemployment there.

A joint study  done by the International Labor Organization and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics puts the youth unemployment rate at 5 percent, with the number rising to more than 13 percent when taking into account “youth who are without work and available to work but not actively seeking work.” But independent studies put the number much, much higher. ActionAid surveyed more than 1,000 people and pegged youth unemployment at more than 60 percent while the African Development Bank has a study finding that unemployment for people 15-24 in Uganda is 83 percent. But even then this poses and will worsen unless something viable is done about it. The skaters set up such a lovely display that I’m left wondering if the FDC party leaders paid for their services or they were simply doing it of enthusiasm. However, having worn FDC party branded shirts, they are likely to be stigmatized for their display of political preference.

Skaters, like any other group of people in the entertainment industry, are supposed to be neutral when it comes to taking political sides.  The same applies to those in the business world, although there are grey areas that need more light. A large company putting on a launch of one of its products will probably hesitate to hire the skaters’ services since they so clearly aligned themselves with a political side. Although in the heat of the moment, they probably did skate for free, without any incentive – and they would do so again, given the chance.