As Kenya approaches the 2017 general elections, the significant role the youth is expected to play has not come out in an elaborate and clear manner.Recently, The Youth Congress, and Coalition of youth organizations launched Kenya Youth Manifesto. The manifesto seeks to ensure that youth issues are well articulated, and placed at the top of the agenda in the run up to the elections.
The youth manifesto initiative is expected to take its own life and help the young people to emerge as a serious political constituent.This is the first time that the young people in this country have made an attempt to sell themselves independently shedding off the tag that they lack interest in Kenya’s political processes. Indifference in participation in the country’s divisive politics has left youth vulnerable to politicians who lure them with generous manifestos that are only reviewed when the next election beckons.
By calling on young people from diverse backgrounds, the organizers appreciate that getting desired results in the context of Kenya’s ethnicised politics is a herculean task that will need a well organized and coordinated machinery.The new initiative focuses on three main pillars; integrity in leadership, peace and social cohesion, education and economic opportunity for the youth. Its proponents intend to create a common platform for young people to put themselves and their issues at the center of the August elections – avoid peril and emerge stronger and better than before.
Over the years, politicians have used youth to ascend to power only to abandon them immediately after. We have seen in every election, young people treated as voting banks, people whose only value is their numbers.The manner in which youth participate in party politics leaves no doubt that the existing processes do not have genuine commitments to tackle the problems facing young people in this country. Youth are not accorded enough influential slots in party leadership commensurate to their numbers.
Given that 78 percent of the Kenyan population is under 35 years old, initiatives such as The Youth for Kenya 2017 can change the voting profile of the country. Indeed, if Kenya’s politics is to significantly change from the current pattern, it will be because the youth, who are the majority will have chosen that path.With a youthful population that is largely marginalized, excluded from decision-making and deprived of basic needs and rights, there is need for them to dictate that path to prosperity.
Today, official statistics show that Kenya’s unemployment rate stands at 40 per cent. Sadly, seven out of every 10 people who are jobless are youth, who also constitute 60 per cent of Kenya’s population.Since 2013, the Jubilee administration has launched three mega youth development initiatives — the Uwezo Fund, the 30 per cent preference for young people, and the revamped National Youth Service (NYS) with all of them by far margins missing the targeted results.
There is now a growing belief that with the very few actions being taken against graft perpetrators, it has become a convenient way of life. As a country, we must now have a sober and honest conversation on how to move ahead to tackle this greatest obstacle to economic prosperity.
Our country is in search of good leaders with bold visions and action to ensure prosperity for all, broaden opportunities for the youth and to address the extraordinary challenges that Kenyans face – leaders who can inspire hope and help build a better future that youth and all Kenyans deserve.
Then there is the issue of violence during and after elections. Politicians are always out to polarize the nation by mobilizing people on tribal basis. They use the same tactics that failed us in the 2007 elections when Kenyan youths were used to perpetrate the violence that divided the nation.
The youth can provide a new vision for Kenya – by appreciating diversity of the Kenyan communities, reconciling them, and promoting a common identity for the Kenyan youth – and ensure effective and peaceful youth participation in the 2017 elections and beyond.
Also, robust civic education and awareness is required to help the youth realize that elections have a significant impact on Kenya’s political, economic development and reforms.Ultimately, the Kenyan youth must face the future with confidence in who they are, the values that they stand for and the incredible things they can do together to push the country forward.
Mr Obonyo is the author of ‘Conversations about the Youth in Kenya’, and the Co-convener of the Kenya Youth Manifesto. He was named as the UN Person of the year in 2016.
He has also been nominated for the 2017 OLX Social Media Awards, see poster below: