By. Eric Birori
The undemocratic tendencies which characterized Rwandan political history leading to 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi of Rwanda have negatively affected youth participation in Political life, political parties included.
Youth have been previously marginalized from decision making processes but in the aftermath the Genocide, there came other more striking issues such as early orphanage, early school dropouts, extreme poverty and unemployment all due to the fact that elder children had to become chiefs of the new households.
Never Again Rwanda (NAR) seeks to generally empower young people including those within political parties to vibrantly participate in policy making processes and to have a voice in politics and decision making. it is within this framework NAR implemented the project entitled “Youth Leadership Academy-Promoting Youth Participation into Political Affairs” in order to develop and nurture future youth leaders, who are critical thinkers.
Through Youth Leadership Academy, NAR conducted a survey for collecting different youth perceptions on their active participation, specifically in political processes, as different aspects showed their participation remains low.
Most of the participants in the survey demonstrated that they don’t believe in youth due to some behaviors such as drug abuse, prostitution, lack of commitment among others “The trust of youth as serious persons is being eroded due to drug abuse. Our leaders may not take us seriously if we are labeled as drug addicts”—FGD Participant, Gisagara
During the trainings that were conducted in different districts of the Western and Southern Provinces, youth shared their views on political parties.It was observed that the knowledge of youth about the functioning of Political Organizations remains very low. They, for instance, revealed that they only know three political parties mainly RPF, PSD and PL. They further stated that RPF is the only Political Party operational (with an Office) within the Districts.
However, youth demonstared that the trainings provided an opportunity for them to acquire new skills especially on decentralization Policy and Good Governance among others.
Muhire Valentin from Bigogwe sector in Nyabihu district said “Before this training, I was not aware that it our right to attend the accountability day and advisory Council’s activities but now I know that I can actively participate in the former and attend the latter so as to closely follow the decisions we have to put in action”.
“I learnt many things about democracy as power of the majority people in which exercise the power directly to elect their leaders. I may say that here in Rwanda we have democracy because the government is providing different spaces for dialogue to discuss issues hindering governance and propose their potential solutions to them. We also acknowledge our government to recognize our role as youth in electing our leaders”, added Jean Pierre Habineza from Nyabihu District.
It should be noted that even though youth hold different positions within their political parties’ structures, for some political parties this representation is not yet high in terms of percentage. Political parties should also seek the better ways to engage more youth in Political processes by increasing awareness- raising campaigns because youth, as young men and women, need guidance from elders to properly start and carry out their political careers.