The youth are the real drivers of change

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When I scrutinise the revolutions that have recently occurred in Tunisia and Egypt, and whose ideals are spreading like bushfire to Algeria, I hunger for the lesson that lies exposed. It is a lesson whose time has come, and which must be shared with the young people of our own country.

Tunisia and Egypt are both relatively wealthy countries that have enjoyed the taste of freedom much longer than most of their African counterparts. After years of rising anger against a regime that has stifled their views and displayed reckless abuse of power, one is left to ponder why it is that they have finally put their foot down and rebelled against the ruling elite.

Are there specific state actions that broke the camel’s back leading to such unprecedented revolutions in these Arab states? Was it the increasing corruption or perhaps the lack of genuine freedom to name but two challenges?

It has been said that the revolution in Tunisia set off the one in Egypt, and could perhaps trigger another in Algeria and possibly Jordan. Nonetheless, unless a people are prepared for the upheaval caused by a revolution, they will often not participate in it.

Therefore in my view, outside of the usual suspects that cause serious discontent amongst the electorate, there must have been a special catalyst to provoke a dormant people into a revolution and cause a great awakening.

I say to you that herein lies a lesson of great significance for the rest of Africa, and for Kenya in particular, whose national elections are just around the corner.

The first common and obvious thread that is emerging from all these scenarios is that there is strength in numbers. In spite of the enforcement of a curfew by the state, as many as 1 million people gathered in Tahrir square practicing civil disobedience and would not leave amid threats of violence.

The confrontations by Hosni Mubarak’s supporters could not have matched the strength of the huge numbers of demonstrators in Tahrir, who operated in shifts to make sure that there was no infiltration from the enemy.

Secondly, the youth have been a vital catalyst for these uprisings. After years of silence by the older generations who had learned to co-exist with their discontent, the young people felt that they had the ability to marshal the change that they desired.

In Egypt for instance, the young people ended up forming a coalition of various youth activists calling themselves, ‘the revolution’s youth’. It is this group that called for the ‘day of rage’ demonstrations on January 25, prompting other activists to join them and consequently, that proved to be the onset of the full fledged revolution.

In all these countries, it is the youth activists who have taken the lead in demanding for change in their countries.

Thirdly, as with President Obama’s election strategy, the young people utilised technology and social media to pass along their message. Despite the state putting a freeze on all such communication, the message and call for change was conveyed using social media tools, like Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

In fact, one of the most viewed videos on You-tube in January was the shooting of the 28-year old demonstrator and young man by the police.

Unfortunately, if the state expected such threats of violence to stifle the dissent of the electorate, the blood of the martyr coupled with that powerful visual, became the wind that fuelled the fire for change.

For me, the lesson learned from all these revolutions is that our ‘youth’ remain our most powerful weapon for change in Kenya. They are educated, passionate and have embraced technology wholeheartedly.

Do not allow yourselves to be divided into small tribal and regional alliances; there is strength in total numbers be they Luo, Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Maasai etc. Alone, you will not accomplish what you can do together.

I say to you that you are ripe for service, and the opportune time is now. I am of the opinion that it is very possible to have a government in 2012that is truly reflective of a youthful demographic.

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