Youth a force for change in Kenya

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I feel gratified; in the sense that what I have been saying for way too long is finally coming true.  Our youth, who constitute about a third of the Kenyan population, have recognised that there is power and might in their sheer numbers.

More importantly, they have become a voice to reckon with and neither politicians nor public agenda can afford to ignore them. 

A good example is the recent election of Gidion Kioko Mbuvi, popularly known as ‘Sonko’ in the Makadara by-election-.  Being the man currently on everybody’s lips, he will unleash love and hate together with fear and awe in equal measure.  I sure hope that he is adequately prepared for this next phase of his life. 

For me, of utmost importance is the fact that at only 35,  and coming from a non-political lineage, he has managed to break the local political barriers. 

He recognised where his strength lies, and in so doing was successful in marshalling the youth into a powerful voting bloc.  He is a surefire example of the changing political landscape occasioned by Kenya’s youth; a force for change.

So what does his victory mean for you as a young person?

If you have ever seen an anthill and the ant wanting to build an even mightier one to withstand harsher weather conditions, you might be tempted to discourage the ant from undertaking such an arduous and almost-impossible task.

I want us to think of ourselves as ants.  We are small in our own rights, but together we can accomplish more than we could dream off alone.  Here are a few principles to guide you then, in achieving your lofty dreams.

First, you should never let anyone make you feel less capable than you know yourself to be.   People will often try to discredit anything or anyone that threatens their livelihood.  This is not to say that they have no skeletons in their own closets or that their own background is unblemished.  No, this is just a tactic to make you question your own abilities.

Understand that this is the human condition, and look for solutions to overcome such hurdles.  Seek out those with whom you have some favor and get them to buy into your goals.  Remember that your best friend is yourself and believe in your capabilities.  If you can’t sell yourself you shouldn’t expect others to sell you.

Secondly, as Sun Tzu will tell you in ‘The Art of War’, know yourself but know your enemy even better.  If you are in a situation where you are competing for the same scarce resources, you will need to understand what it is that drives your enemy in fighting you. 

Understand what is at stake for them.  Are they driven by financial, personal or social goals?  What are the strong and weak points in each of these incentives? 

Once you understand their strategy then you will be able to differentiate yourself and hence ably counter-attack it with your own informed strategy. 

Thirdly, for you to take up any leadership position desired, you will need to connect with the people around you.  You need to demonstrate why you are the right person to address their needs.  Remember that people would rather stay with the devil they know, than embrace one whose colours they are not familiar with. 

So how do you convince them to choose you?  Really it is by demonstrating that you understand their needs and can passionately and selflessly voice them (not your own).  They also want to feel that you can be trusted to speak for them as they would wish, not as you would want.  

Finally, remember to choose an appropriate vehicle with which to engage others and possibly yield maximum results.  I hear that Sonko actually set up his own ‘CDF’ to address the needs of his constituents.  Was that a more effective vehicle than the door-to door campaign strategy used by -his rivals?  Perhaps you will say it was the latter strategy, similarly employed by President Obama to propel him into office.

Incidentally, I am reminded of Madagascar’s President Andre Rajoelina, a former disk jockey and Mayor, and a man most conventionally unlikely to ascend into presidency.  President Rajoelina not only established a radio station to pass his message, but he also initiated a movement called Malagasy Youth to agitate for change in his country.   He had a powerful vehicle with which he engaged the youth in Madagascar, in a show of serving them better. 

In conclusion, I want to let you know that your life is like a personal diary in which you write your story.  No matter how small you may feel, you have the potential to draft your life message in the manner that you desire.  Like an ant however, you can never do it alone.        
 

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