Ugandan young lawyer closer to Joining UK parliament


Yahaya Kiyingi, youngest parliamentary candidate in the UK

Yahaya Kiyingi was born in Uganda and his family moved over to Britain when he was 5 years old. He was brought up in inner city London, attended local schools in Britain and studied Law at the University of Southampton. Now aged 25, Kiyingi is a force to reckon with as a parliamentary candidate for Camberwell and Peckham, one of the most diverse constituencies represented in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.

He faces stiff competition from Harriet Harman of the Labour Party who has represented the constituency for 30 years. The constituency has the distinction of having a higher proportion of poor people than any other constituency in the United Kingdom. The next UK Parliamentary general election is tomorrow Thursday May 7.

Kiyingi joined the Liberal Democrats when he was 16, quickly winning a reputation for articulating the plight of young people. He started his own social enterprise at the age of sixteen and soon found that the power and the money were in other people’s hands, the Liberal Democrats website says.


Kiyingi (R) could be on the verge of making history

The site adds that Kiyingi has developed numerous projects in his community which include running and editing his own local magazine and radio show, working with the local council on special committees, organizing various community events and serving on the local party executive.

He has a love for literature, and runs a local book club with the aim to bring people in his communities together. Yahaya is passionate about making a difference in people’s lives.

Working in market research by day, Kiyingi has also helped to set up a charity to keep young people out of crime and a borough-wide youth magazine, UK Paper Southwark News says about the 25 year old.

“Youth services have been cut and young people are looking for places to go and there’s nowhere. Money for youth services should be ring-fenced. Unless you get young people involved you’re going to see higher crime levels and low achievement in schools,” the publication quotes Kiyingi in an interview.

With so many young people not interested in politics, Kiyingi says he is fighting a one-man mission in Southwark, not only to campaign for youth provision, but also to show the kids that not all politicians look the same. “When I visit schools they’re surprised. They expect me to be a middle class old white man,” Mr. Kiyingi goes on in the interview.

He says it’s not only his youth which makes him a symbol of hope for the disenfranchised. “Camberwell and Peckham have been represented by a white woman for the last 30 years. I don’t think that’s an issue but what’s important is a symbol and what it represents. To see a young black person is a symbol more than anything,” Kiyingi says.

At the last general election, Harriet Harman had a 17,000-strong majority and Kiyingi, is realistic about his chances. “For me, it’s not about winning or defeating Harriet, it’s what I can offer. Speaking to young people in Peckham and Camberwell, it’s about showing them that a young black man can make it in politics. Everyone knows it’s a safe Labour seat, but I’m seeing what I can symbolise for other young people,” he adds.

Kiyingi’s manifesto, states that although his main focus is on young people’s issues, housing and the regeneration of areas like Peckham town centre and the Aylesbury Estate come a close second.

“The lack of housing is a problem because we haven’t built enough homes. If we’re not building houses, we’re not going to solve the housing issue, “said the young entrepreneur, conceding that coalition government cuts over the last five years had “hit the people of Camberwell and Peckham hard.”

But he maintains the party line that “it would have been worse,” without the Liberal Democrats there to restrain the axe-wielding Conservatives. “Their policies are so economically focused; we reminded them that they have a social responsibility.”

The Liberal Democrats, the party Kiyingi represents in the race finished second in the last three elections. The Ugandan-born parliamentary candidate has been tipped as a future Liberal Democrat party leader.