This week a group of suspects were paraded by the police as responsible for the wave of the wave of violent robberies that have plagued Kampala suburbs and parts of the Masaka area.
The suspects’ testimonials suggested that they did what they did to earn a living. Hired by organised groups, housed in the city and unleashed on an unsuspecting population to wreak havoc and sow terror.
Police boss General Kale Kayihura said while he was aware that parading them was stretching the law he needed to assure the victims and potential targets of these crimes that the police force is working to resolve the issue.
You may frown at Kayihura’s methods, even throw the book at him, but looking at it from his point of view, an erosion of confidence will make the police work that more difficult. It was a confidence building exercise.
But it served too, to send shivers down our spines. That there is even the existence of thugs-for-hire rings, with suggested connivance of the police and even city businessmen, is enough to ensure you sleep with one eye open...
Below the surface though is the reality that the economy has not be creating enough jobs to absorb the hundreds of thousands of youth coming into the job market annually. As if that is not enough the current hard economic times means that their benefactors are finding it hard to make ends meet leave alone feed and clothe these able bodied men and women.
Jobless, without income and with the low self-esteem that comes with that it should come as no surprise that for a few shillings they would be game for anything, even a little smash-and-grab on the odd night.
That coupled with a society which condones corruption at every level, means that the moral judgements that may have overrode their baser instincts are non-existent. Not very jobless, hungry youth takes up the bait to join a criminal gang. But for how long will be it until the hunger in their bellies revolts against moral sense and they join a growing bandwagon?
The truth is that in the last three decades or so while infant mortality has dropped, life expectancy has risen, we are increasingly younger population on average. Because job creation is not keeping pace with the new entrants into the work place we have a situation where more and more people are dependent on fewer people for a livelihood.
"There is a vicious cycle at play here. We cannot create jobs because companies are not growing. Companies are not growing because there is no market for increased production. There is no market because on average our incomes are not rising. They are not rising because more and more of us are finding ourselves out of work...
We need some quick gains in the short term and more sustainable long term solutions.
Current programs like the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) program, where the elderly in some parts are getting some monthly stipend, could be a useful stop gap measure. Whereas government doling out monies to any group of people has its critics, if done properly as a stop gap measure to get those who can get back on their feet, it can be useful in creating some demand and even jumpstarting some small enterprises.
Whichever way you look at it this a much better use of government resources than the current plunder by a select few who squander it on foreign holidays and ostentatious living. Which is why corruption is at the center of our problems.
The youth livelihood initiatives too, if shepherded well can in the short to medium term, help create an army of job creators rather than job seekers.
"On a macro level government needs to focus all its energies on creating jobs. For starters they should start monitoring statistics on the net jobs being created in the economy on a monthly basis like more developed economies...
This is important because what one focuses on expands. And we are not talking about government creating jobs, but creating the enabling environment to allow businesses to start and thrive by removing the red tape in registration and licensing processes, enhancing infrastructure – both soft and physical and fighting corruption more determinedly.
The solution to youth unemployment is simple but it is not easy to execute. Some hard decisions will have to be made in coming weeks, months and years if we are to combat unemployment and maintain national stability.