The growing use of internet to pull people together for a cause has taken root among youths and more so in Africa where internet and technology is rapidly growing across the divides.
In the past year alone, African youths have used the social media for a variety of reasons among them being to demonstrate, raise funds for a cause, campaign for a leadership position and call for peaceful campaigns and elections.
Ugandan youth are now trending in Africa, as they call for peace in the incoming elections using hashtags that are aimed at reaching out and spreading peaceful messages.
Barely a week to the elections, all what Ugandans and the rest of Africans need is a peaceful election come February 18.
With eight candidates fighting to get the presidency, this looks like the most heated election in the East African country. Yoweri Museveni, the current president who has been in leadership for 30 years is also running. His strong rivals, the likes of Kizza Besigye and Amama Mbabazi are more vocal calling on Ugandans to come together and change leadership.
If the chain of violence already experienced in the campaigns is something to go by, then Ugandans are justified to have sleepless nights especially because of what could go wrong if elections turned out to be chaotic.
Experiences from neighboring Kenya in the 2007/8 post-election violence and crisis in South Sudan and now Burundi are only too fresh on their minds. And before it is too late, something has to be done.
Already, youth groups supported by well-wishers have come up with peaceful campaigns offline and on internet to urge fellow youth- who are most volatile- to shun away from political influence and manipulation to cause chaos for money or any other favors.
Using the hashtag #IPledgePeaceUg, youths and other peace enthusiasts are taking time to engage in online campaigns reminding the youth to maintain peace at all costs.
It is not just youth that are rallying behind these online campaigns. Organization like Young African Leadership Initiative Network (YALI) in Uganda in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, have also launched a similar social media campaign geared towards promoting peace co-existence before, during and after the polls.
On their Facebook page, the Youth Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda have urged youth to learn from neighboring countries what war can do to a nation.
“It's noticeable that as presidential aspirants wind up with campaigns, some of them have on top of many promises vowed to use all the means whether violent or defiant whatever they call it to swing into power. The inextricable aspect however is that the youths are being seen as the appropriate implementers of these ill thoughts,” YCED argued.
“While our neighboring countries including Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan and the most recent Burundi have for many years sought refuge from Uganda, we have been in pure peace spare for the northern part who were disturbed by Kony,” it added.
Presenting their 21-page manifesto last year ahead of the 2016 elections, YCED noted that four key areas would help change the lives of the youth in the country. These include: “unemployment, health care for all, Education opportunities, sports and culture as well as youth participation in decision making.”
Fear of the known
The looming fear of violence erupting in Uganda after the polls is well known by Ugandans following the wars that happened in the past; case in point, the post-independence crisis which many people remember too well.
When Uganda had a change of leadership some 30 years ago, what followed was a series of retaliation wars which according to Museveni’s opponents instilled fear among voters who choose to remain ‘stuck’ with one leader instead of violence.