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Meet Kenya s youngest MP

NAIROBI, August 21 – Aged only 30, he has a promising future; he is confident of his political career and is certain that he has done what many would only dream to achieve at his age.

Meet Joshua Serem Kutuny, the man who trounced political heavyweights like former Agriculture Minister Kipruto Kirwa and former Maendeleo ya Wanawake Chairperson Zipporah Kittony, to become the Member of Parliament (MP) for Cherangany in the tenth Parliament.

Fresh out of college and with no job experience, Kutuny ran on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket defeating Kirwa with over 5,000 votes, ending the powerful Minister’s 20-year reign at the constituency.

Capital News caught up with the youthful politician to get insight into his first term in Parliament.

Q: How did you manage to defeat top politicians at your first attempt?
A: The youth and women in my constituency are the one’s who brought me to this House and they have a lot of expectations.

Kirwa being the Minister for Agriculture did little to address the high prices of fertilizers, farm inputs, cost of production which are a major concern for my constituents- 90 percent are farmers. This contributed to his loss.

He also did not address issues of poverty, unemployment, education and in my campaigns I articulated policies to solve these concerns. So, voters decided to give me a chance.

Q: Campaigns are quite expensive. How did you manage to fund yours?
A: I spent close to Sh2 million mostly from friends who shared my vision. I also got a few resources from my family.

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Q: What motivated you to go into politics and how did you start out?
A: I was elected the Kenya African National Union (KANU) youth representative in Cherangany in 2003. It was not difficult to win the seat then because everybody had left KANU to join NARC.

This created the platform to get in touch with the constituents and other renowned politicians like Agriculture Minister William Ruto, who was then the party Secretary General.

Ruto really inspired me and mentored me.

During the referendum on the draft constitution is when I decided to go for the Cherangany seat after mobilising the youth to defeat the proposed Constitution; as you remember the Minister was for the draft.

Q: Let’s delve into your background.
A. I was born in 1978 in Cherangany, went to Kipikykei Primary then Suwerwa Secondary School in 1997.

I was supposed to join Egerton University to study Agriculture Economics in 1999 but I opted not to because I wanted do a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration.

I did get admitted to Moi University in 2002 and did Bachelor of Arts in Public Administrations and Political Science.

Q: You represent a very large constituency, which is the youth in the country. What agenda do you have for them?
A: Together with other youthful MPs and civil societies we will be launching a Youth Marshal Plan, which will seek to empower youth to be entrepreneurs and outline ways to create more employment opportunities through increased  investment in the country.

We will also mobilise all MPs to support the plan; actually if one is opposed to it he is against youth development

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Q: What is your take on the Sh1 billion youth fund?
A: The regulations and process of disbursing the money is cumbersome and the money is not enough.

We need to make it easily available to youth who have brilliant entrepreneurship ideas.

The interest rate is also too high; it should be lowered from the current 12 percent to below 10 percent

Q: You have been an MP for eight months now; what have you done for your constituents and in particular the youth?
A: One of the key things I have done is to establish a Sh7 million bursary fund for poor constituents who want to join higher learning institutions.

I’m also liaising with my friends abroad to get scholarships for some of the sharp students.

Through the Constituency Development Fund we are putting up a Sh10 million sports academy for football and athletics. It should be conclude in two years.

Q: How does it feel being the youngest MP and how do the elderly colleagues treat you?
A: I can’t complain but at the beginning most thought that we were in Parliament by default but in the seven months we have been here we have proved them wrong.

If you don’t come out very strong they might try to push you around and hence you might not be able to make independent decisions.

Q: What are the challenges?
A: People believe that you can transform their lives immediately which is impossible.

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Finding jobs for the constituents is also proving difficult.

One also has to deal with the frequent requests for contributions for medical and funeral bills.
Q: What role should the youth play in President Kibaki’s succession politics?
A: They should push to have a person probably below 45 as the next President. Hopefully as young parliamentarians we will be able to identify such a person and front him to the nation.

Q: When do you plan to call it quits?
A: I believe I’ve got a future in politics and I expect to serve my people for the better part of my life.

But I don’t intended to be just an MP with every fresh term. I should go up the political ladder and probably go for the presidency one day.

I don’t see why you should be in Parliament for twenty years and not declare your interests in the top seat.

But it is important to quit early, probably at fifty five or fifty.

Q: Your plans should you lose in 2012?
A: I will continue with my studies.

I’m currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Relations through distant learning from Washington University and masters in Communications Studies and NGO Management at the University of South Africa.

Q: Parting shot?
A: It is time for the youth and we are setting the foundation for them. Every thing is possible if you plan and are willing.

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