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Uganda's Jobless Brotherhood

By Halima Athumani
KAMPALA (AA) – Like most people his age, 26-year-old Norman Tumuhimbise has remained jobless since finishing law school. He is currently in detention at the Luzira maximum-security prison for demonstrating against perceived injustices, especially soaring youth unemployment.
Tumuhimbise is a leading member of the "Jobless Brotherhood," a group of university graduates who have failed to get jobs years after finishing their education.
"This organization brings us together as unemployed youth," he told Anadolu Agency in an interview conducted during his last court hearing.
"We have common factors and common problems that unite us," Tumuhimbise added. "We are graduates; we have skills."
It is not clear how many members the Brotherhood currently has. But according to the Uganda Bureau of Statics, youths between 18 and 30 years old account for around 83 percent of the total population – and 62 percent of them are jobless.
Tumuhimbise has been without work since obtaining his law degree in 2009.
"For all that period, I have done my best to look for a job in vain," he said bitterly. "Not even as a clerk in someone's chamber."
Jobless Brotherhood members realize there are no white collar jobs awaiting them, urging their colleagues to be resourceful.
However, such resourcefulness comes with its own challenges.
"If someone is making chapattis on the street, why should the Kampala Capital City Authority come and arrest them?" Tumuhimbise asked. "I'm not asking to be a [government] minister."
He added: "If I acquire my motorcycle and use it as an income-generating vehicle, where would I ride it from?"
In April of last year, the Ugandan government earmarked 265 billion Ugandan shillings (roughly $102 million) to empower poor and unemployed youth in a new initiative dubbed the "Youth Livelihoods Program."
The five-year program targets unemployed youth, especially school dropouts between 18 and 30 years old.
When Tumuhimbise tried to access the funds, however, he realized all the government was giving per head was 600,000 shillings (roughly $330).
"When the president and his colleagues sit there and say, 'We have given out billions,' you hear that and say, 'I should get one billion'," Tumuhimbise said.
-Piglets, coffins-
On a hot Tuesday afternoon on June 18, as lawmakers drove in their expensive four-wheel vehicles and others were chauffeured ahead of the plenary session, two young people beat security and dragged two piglets into the country's legislative assembly.
They dipped the piglets in yellow paint, the trademark color of the ruling National Resistance Movement Party, which they accuse of promoting corruption, youth unemployment and exploitation, among other injustices.
It was their way of expressing their discontent to lawmakers.
"They call themselves patriotic and represent us, but are instead greedy, dirty, cursed and self-seeking, just as pigs," said Tumuhimbise, one of the two pig-painting activists.
"Otherwise, we would have used goats – but goats behave," he said. Tumuhimbise now faces charges of interrupting parliamentary proceedings and conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor – accusations that could carry a jail sentence of not beyond three years.
On August 4, ten more members of the Jobless Brotherhood fooled security personnel deployed at the iconic Constitutional Square, carrying a coffin to the square's Independence Monument where they held a protest vigil.
"Of the youths in this country, 83 percent are not independent," said Tumuhimbise. "Your stomach is not independent from hunger; your pockets aren't independent from poverty."
The government has sealed off Constitutional Square since protests in April 2012. Pedestrians are barred from passing through it amid heavy deployments of police, tanks and barbed wire.
Along with the coffin, Jobless Brotherhood members carried a banner reading, "We are mourning for our country over corruption, unemployment, youth desertion. Do not lead us into temptations."
For this action alone, Tumuhimbise and nine others are accused of unlawful assembly for which they each face one-year jail terms.
The group is due back in court on August 21 to hear a final verdict.
Jobless Brotherhood member Zeridah Kakai said the group would remain defiant – even with its leaders behind bars.
"This fight is not about personalities; it is a cause for young people," she told AA.
Kakai said the government had failed to fulfill its obligations to the people, especially in terms of healthcare and youth employment.
"These problems are our inspiration," she said. "It doesn't matter if they arrest more of us – there are plenty more jobless youth out there."

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