The last two days (2nd & 3rd July) I attended a Pan-African Youth Conference and the theme was- “Beyond Liberation Movements: Shaping Our Future” in Rwanda. I am not going to touch on a lot of what happened at the conference, this is because it was standard procedure. A couple of intellectuals sit on a podium to discuss matters that often do not materialize and everyone wakes up the next day to continue the rat race.
This doesn’t take away from the thrill of some of the discussions. I want to zero into the first session of the conference, with the topic being, ‘’The Youth and African Liberation Movements’’. As the discussion prevailed, I was rather perplexed by the fact I was not sure if the conversation was for the youth or simply about the youth which made it a bit confusing on how to receive the information being disseminated or even understand the perspective of cases brought forward thoroughly.
My favorite part was obviously the aggressive portion of the discussion when the moderator handed over the mic to Robert Kabushenga, CEO Vision Group. Before the mic touched his lips he began to shout saying, “All of you in this room ought to be ashamed of yourself…you all ought to be ashamed! What have you done to shape the future?” (This is not a direct quote). He went on to explain how most of the people in the room have been exposed to the best form of education since post colonialism and we are wasting time expecting people to figure out solutions on to make Africa the continent it deserves to be. My instant reaction was, ‘eh! If I knew they were going to shout at me for free, I should have stayed at home- the same thing happens’. The oxygen in the room all of sudden become REAL thin! Eyes were widened and gasps were in abundance. It became awkward faster than instant noodles! Hurricane Robert had arrived and the room was definitely shaken.
Do you know when something gets awkward in public and you bend your head slightly and you scratch the lower back of your head? Yeah? It was that kind of awkward!
However, my upbringing in Uganda aided me in understanding Robert’s point, what he was trying to communicate (besides a little rukus) was that we are in a room robust with potential that is not being used to full capacity and we are seeking opportunity from those with less than what we have to offer. We as the youth are unaware of the opportunity that we are able to seek on our own for ourselves. Fair enough! But I was still confused and the whether it was about the youth or for us.
As I was still deciding the audience of the conference, the Q&A began and then this lady from DRC stood up to challenge Hurricane Robert! She decided this was her chance to drop the feminism bomb, a bomb that is always loaded with asinine! She said she did not feel that Robert was fair in calling her confused because she was not *insert her weave flick* and she said that is faced by barriers by being a woman, which have interfered with her being actionable. Then she added ‘I was so frustrated when you said that’. The hurricane then transformed into the Don and told the lady, ‘If you think you were frustrated , NOW YOU ARE GOING TO BE MAD!!!’ …All of a sudden this free conference had become worth a couple of bucks!
At the entrance they told us to leave our phones, they didn’t tell us to make sure that we had our bullet proof vests, because now…SHOTS were being fired! Everyone began to murmur and chuckle like real youth! I watched everyone turn around to see other people’s reaction. Unfortunately they took the mic from the lady so I was not able to hear the shots she was firing back to Don Robert but from the screen I was seeing hands and weave in the air and I knew she was not complimenting his tortoise shell spectacles.
Robert was able to calm the lady down and asked her to give him a chance to talk. He then created this camp fire atmosphere and began to tell us how he was raised by a single mother in a home with 8 other people that she provided for and he added how much he respected women based on all his mum did. At this point, we all had twinkles in our eyes and a lot of ‘mmmmmm…bambi’s were being whispered around. He explained to us how if his mother was able to accomplish so much in the Idi Amin regime, we have no excuse! The battles were won- now we must fly!
If it was about us: TELL ‘EM AGAIN
If it was for us:
Robert said that ‘You are confused’- yes! I am confused. I am in that period of my life (it should be conventionally until I am about 28) whereby I am not sure about where my life is going or what the right moves are. It is scary and definitely confusing. I am not confused about where I want to go, I am confused about how to get there. There is no straight and narrow road, it is one that is bumpy, filled with dead ends and paved with fear and excitement.
To go back to the point when Robert said we should be ashamed. I cannot be ashamed for not knowing what to do with the potential within me – in loose terms I still do not know better. I should be ashamed if I know better and do nothing. In the words of Ambassador Fred Gateretse, ‘ I am trying’. A lot of people forget that a lot of things in life are easy to say but when it comes to execution, a lot of us tend to fall short. Execution is scary because you are bringing an idea to life and hoping the stars aligned so that you may succeed. It is always the hardest part.
When I walked into the hall (after stuffing my face with the nice snacks that Serena Kigali had to offer) I assumed that the role of the panelists were to almost take up a parental role and aid us in identifying the tools we could use to realize our potential.
I usually call it ‘smart people syndrome’- smart people often struggle to understand how someone wouldn’t get what they understand. The decisions that the most successful were able to make that led them their prime status, do not come natural to everyone and that is why when given the platform we hope they can tell us which green lights to watch out for on the path to self-realization and success.
Robert Kabushenga was definitely the highlight of the conference and he made me think. It is always nice to think.
I always like to make my titles funny puns but I think this one is a bit farfetched- the aim was to shape our future and I felt like a star represents a collision and cluster of SHAPEs to from something spectacular and it is a journey to get to be a star.