I recently stepped in my not too rural hometown in Kiambu County, only to find the streets free of young people; no voting age youths were in sight. I visited the areas which the young people throng, only to find it empty. I wondered who had such strength capable of retrieving the young people from their hideouts? And what power did he have at his disposal to hold such a vast number of individual’s captive that others seldom possessed?
The owner of the popular pool table hall, a man in his late thirties amplified my search by asking, “How comes you are here while all your age mates have gone to receive kitu kidogo from the Mheshimiwa”. “Where”? I asked. “I heard the Mheshimiwa is attending the assistant Chief’s burial and a message went round that he will be giving the youths something,” he answered shaking his balding head. I knew I wouldn’t reach the destination in time, since the burial was quite far, and all the motorcycle riders, who were equally young were unavailable. They were all in attendance of the burial of the assistant chief, killed in peculiar circumstances.
It was that time when the youths in Kenya are used, misused to gain political mileage for the political elite. It was then that I realized that it is the period that the elections reared its ugly head on us, as contending sides ready themselves for a political showdown.
Currently, the youth ages 18 – 35 constitute 70% of the population of Kenya. Composing a large percentage of the electorate, the youth are the most marginalized. The cycle of dependence and underdeveloped public amenities continue on as the machine of politics runs on the fuel provided by public funds. By receiving petty bribes, the youth seal their fate in the hands of selfish and devious leaders ensuring the election, to serve for another term. My experience is that whoever bribes is either in danger, error or fear.
Juakali industries, sports, music, and the arts, entrepreneurship, technology, and education, illustrates the youth can steer country’s future. However, the youth have taken roles in enlightening citizens on the significance of electoral participation. Taking part in civic education on the elections and educating the masses on the need to vote wisely are among the ways the youth are participating.
During the unforgettable post-election and its aftermath in 2008, the youth in the volatile areas were used to plot, wage war and avenge ethnic cleansing among tribal groups that held heavy stakes in the election. Those who had previously coexisted were incited to kill those believed to support opposing political grouping. However, many are determined that the outcome of politically motivated clashes of 2008 will not happen again in 2017. If the notion that ‘numbers don’t lie’ is anything to go by, then the youth in Kenya should use their numbers as leverage to ensure only development-sensitive leaders are elected.
Unfortunately, some youth who are considered as learned end up doing the exact opposite while they stand to be beneficiaries of a sound political system. Kenya is known for its corrupt leadership. So the question beckons, would our politicians prefer a learned and well-off electorate or an ignorant, broke young package? So will the youth come out in large numbers to support their fellow youth in the 2017 general elections? Will the county government begin to listen to their voices of reason for the betterment of the nation.
So the question beckons, would our politicians prefer a learned and well-off electorate or an ignorant, broke young package? Will the youth come out in large numbers to support their fellow youth in the 2017 general elections? Will the county government begin to listen to their voices of reason for the betterment of the country? What will be the consequences of not involving the youth in the transition to devolution? Are the youth ready to use this election as a starting ground for a revolution to the politics of development? The answers to those questions are a sure pointer to where Kenya is headed.
Your guess is just as good as mine.
This article was Capital Campus Correspondent written by Brian Waweru.