Written by Angella Kemirembe and Prosper Mubangizi
“Being a Speaker of the East African Youth Parliament means that I am a leader who is more than a dreamer. Just like any other leader, I must act on my people’s ideas and influence them to carry their vision of achieving a common goal” – Ashura Michael, the first person with a disability to become a Speaker of the East African Youth Parliament
On 14th November 2019, the young people of East Africa elected Ashura Michael, a deaf youth activist from Kenya, as one of four Speakers of their Youth Parliament.
This was a landmark decision taken by the 150 young people from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan who had gathered in Arusha, Tanzania, for the second session of the East African Youth Parliament organised by Faraja Africa Foundation with support from Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Action Aid, YouLead Summit and the International Republican Institute. By electing Ashura Michael as Speaker, they sent out a clear political statement that surpassed the societal stereotypes against people with disabilities. It was a statement that diversity and inclusion of all people in governance is key to the achievement of true democracy in East Africa.
This also proved that the young people of East Africa can lead this community to the realization of the aspirations of the East African Community Vision 2050 and the African Union Agenda 2063.
“The election of someone with a hearing impairment as Speaker was a landmark that will forever remain history. It shows that as young people of East Africa we want to challenge the norm and look at aspect of inclusivity in governance.” – Brighton Abaho, Youth Line Forum
Moreover, by debating motions that are politically and socially sensitive like the South Sudan conflict situation, the need to fast track the ratification and domestication of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) and the need to have a universal currency to support cross border trade, youth from all walks of life showed that they have a vision for a better East Africa. They showed that they are open to greater integration to facilitate cross-border trade, wider markets and more bargaining power on the international market.
The motion on the fast-tracking of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) exhibited a generation of young people who are aware of the historical wrongs of poor governance, the effects of poorly managed electoral processes and the need to create leaders who are accountable to their people.
As the young people of East Africa embark on the process of determining and choosing the future they want, we believe that there is no better time for them to lead.