BY MACHEL WAIKENDA
Widespread violence erupted across Kenya following the disputed presidential election in December 2007.
Some reckless youths engaged in looting, rioting while others rose against one another, joined in the fighting and most unfortunately killed fellow citizens.
As a result, over 1,500 people lost their lives, thousands more were displaced, hundreds of others were maimed, others raped and property worth billions of shillings was either looted or destroyed.
The inevitable devastating repercussions brought about a complete switch from the daily routine of the victims and many of those affected remained disconsolate to date.
The country’s economy was crippled, investors pulled out of the country, families were ruined, education was paralyzed and everything came to a standstill.
This highlights the reality that the youth often play a major role in violent conflict and lays bare the implications that come along with such misadventure.
Fortunately, on and after March 4, there is a reason to look back and sigh with relief.
At this juncture, I laud and appreciate majority of Kenyan youth for keeping the peace before, during and after the just concluded General Election which is the first stride towards the right path, and, to the right direction.
It is indisputable that young people, who constitute the highest percentage of Kenya’s population, vindicated themselves from being branded as agents of misery as was the case half a decade ago and in the past where they were used as instruments of causing chaos.
It was an affirmation that this segment of the Kenya’s population can have unity of purpose by continuing to defy such divisions and unpatriotic acts.
Nonetheless, the isolated cases of insecurity were uncalled for as witnessed in Nairobi’s slums (notably Mathare, Kibera, Dandora) as well as Kisumu and Migori towns.
The true reflection is that the country was largely peaceful even in previously perceived hotspots.
Most definitely, the teething problems as a direct result of widespread unemployment are a collective adversity facing them, which can only be addressed in unison and as a matter of national priority.
The youth are the primary engines of economic independence, social integration and stability and therefore youth empowerment and job creation as envisaged in the Jubilee Government manifesto is a pledge the Jubilee administration is keen to make a reality where peace and stability is a prerequisite.
When young people are employed and capable to generate income, certainly they will be less likely to join violent movements for economic gain precisely because they have the ability to satisfy their basic needs.
However, to invest in long-term, civic education and capacity building before giving loans to start income generation activities to youth groups as part of the empowerment programme will be necessary.
These are some of the ways that the Jubilee government will help the youth become productive and better people in facilitating their resourceful engagements of their time to harness their diverse talents like sports, artistic work, small businesses and other viable projects.
Additionally, the youth are required to come up with innovative and creative ideas that are economically viable to take advantage of the Youth Enterprise Capital Fund kitty at their disposal earmarked as part of the youth empowerment strategy envisaged in the Jubilee Manifesto.
This will enable them access interest-free business financing to kick start economic growth right from the grassroots as part of alleviating poverty and transform their lives to becoming productive and better people.
Through such engagements in income generating activities, young people will be an integral part in the development of this country’s economy.
In Rwanda, a fast growing economy in the East Africa Community, the youth have taken decisive action in innovative fields like exploiting Information and Communication Technology to shape their country’s future twenty years after ethnic genocide left over one million people dead.
It is time the youth seize the moment in ICT fields considering Kenya enjoys the most advanced fiber optic connection in the region.
The Jubilee government has committed itself to bridging the existing socio-economic and political gap ostensibly to bring the youth on board as promised in the Manifesto including in political representation and leadership positions.
It is only through strong economic foundations and collective action that the youth can shape Kenya’s destiny to perpetuate growth and progress for posterity.
(The writer is the TNA Director of Communications)