Promoting Sustainable Youth Engagement in Ugandan Politics

  • Rayna Alexander, Timothy Rupnarain

In Uganda’s current multiparty system, political parties are key contributors in the policymaking process. Concurrently, Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world: more than 75 percent of the population is younger than 35 years old. The effective participation of Ugandan youth is critically important in ensuring a representative political body. However, the underrepresentation of young political leaders within political parties affects inclusive participation in decision making processes. 

The Interparty Youth Platform (IYOP) is a cooperation framework of youth leagues from nine political parties in Uganda. IYOP provides a platform for youth from different political ideologies to facilitate sustainable dialogue and promote a culture of tolerance and collaboration. With support from the International Republican Institute (IRI), IYOP’s activities aim to strengthen leadership capacities for youth and advance their influence on the social, political, and economic frameworks of Uganda. 

Primarily, IRI supports IYOP’s efforts to increase youth participation in political processes by: 

  1. Providing capacity building trainings to build skills in strategic planning, policy development, and advocacy activities; 
  1. Facilitating meetings and activities with senior political leadership to improve personal and professional relationships with senior party leaders.  

Strategic Planning and Policy Development  

One of IYOP’s key objectives is to strengthen political parties’ youth league structures. IRI supported a strategic workshop for 30 IYOP leaders in Kampala to identify key priorities within IYOP’s strategic plan including internal capacity building, policy advocacy, and strengthening youth participation in the 2026 general elections. Many party-specific youth leagues also developed their own strategic plans to lead party advocacy efforts, mobilize young people, and engage in decision-making with senior policymakers. IRI worked with a total of eight youth leagues to review and develop policies that promote youth empowerment, resulting in six policy briefs including the Democratic Party’s youth policy, The Justice Forum’s youth league media policy, and the Uganda Federal Alliance’s gender policy.  

Engagement with Senior Policymakers  

IYOP plays a critical role in strengthening the capacity of young political leaders through training and mentorship. In most planned activities, IRI included both senior and youth political leaders to showcase youth leaders’ skills and improve their professional relationships. For example, in February 2023, IRI organized the IYOP Interparty Football Tournament where representatives from nine political party youth leagues, the National Youth Council (NYC), and senior party leaders—including the Lord Mayor of Kampala City Authority, the Secretary General of the People’s Progressive Party, and the Vice President of the Uganda People’s Congress—engaged in both discussion and sport. The tournament provided an opportunity for youth to practice effective communication and peaceful football game-related conflict resolution skills. The attendance and participation of senior policymakers demonstrated their commitment to support their respective party’s youth league’s engagement.  

IYOP’s Impact and Future 

With the support of IRI, youth in Uganda increased their political capacity, learned to engage in the political process, and continued to advocate for issues impacting young people, instead of reverting to violence. The impact of IRI-supported training is evidenced through ongoing efforts led by IYOP members. At Makerere University, youth leaders condemned a ban on political party activities. Their protest resulted in media coverage and a parliamentary committee inquiry.  IYOP’s youth leagues also engaged in university guild elections by organizing campaigns and training new leaders. In Mukono district, for example, the Democratic Party’s Youth League, Uganda Youth Democrats (UYD), hosted a symposium to align UYD with the party’s political agenda.  

Through IRI-IYOP efforts, youth participation, investment, and impact in the political process has improved. IRI will continue to support IYOP’s efforts to increase youth participation in social, political, and economic issues in Uganda. 

Up ArrowTop