, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 17- Runyenjes Member of Parliament and Assistant Minister for Tourism Cecily Mbarire is calling on the youth to actively exercise their democratic rights and champion the country’s reform agenda.
Ms Mbarire who was addressing about 100 youth leaders from 24 countries at a Pan African Youth Forum on Wednesday said the youth were a critical resource in steering sustainable change in society.
She lauded the Youth Council Act which was assented to by President Mwai Kibaki recently adding that it would increase youth representation at grassroots and national levels.
“In addition, within the draft Constitution we have recognised the young people within the Bill of Rights and we also have the Political Parties Act that recognises the need to engage young people in all levels of leadership within political parties. They are now legally supposed to participate in the development of their political parties and at various levels of leadership,” she said.
Ms Mbarire was however quick to add that the youth clause in the draft Constitution had been watered down, “It is unfortunate but we want to beef it up.”
She also lauded the government’s efforts in availing funds for community development through the CDF funds saying it would hasten the country’s economic progress. The Runyenjes MP however implored upon the government to increase youth participation in the management of the funds and increase their economic empowerment.
“They must also be involved in ensuring that the funds are used transparently. If the youth don’t have any means of livelihood then they become easy prey for politicians to use. They become very easy targets for drug use. But the youth must also say no to hand outs and free money because free money is just that- free money. It will not take you anywhere,” she said.
She further asked the youth to vote for their political elite based on merits and demerits but not along tribal lines. This she said would prevent a repeat of the violence experienced across the country in the wake of 2008.
“And I hope by 2012 young people especially in Kenya will be able to rise above ethnic groupings and pick a presidential candidate who recognizes that the young person is the most endangered person in this country today and we need a president who can empathize with young people,” she said.
Ms Mbarire further emphasised the need to continuously champion for the rights affecting young people saying they were the cream of society. She added that the Kenyan society could not afford to ignore its youth as that would be detrimental to its success.
“A time has come when governments have to start paying attention to the youth and the youth must start speaking less and acting more. We are very good at exchanging ideas on the internet and in meetings but beyond that real action is not seen because an idea that is not turned into action just remains that- an idea that will not change anything,” she said.
She also asked the government to educate the public on the CDF funds and help the masses know how to access them.
Ronald Rwankangi who was one of the youth leaders present at the forum asked African governments to refrain from paying lip service to youth inclusion and participation in political and other democratic processes.
“We want to see real opportunities, a demonstration of political will that includes allocation of resources and access of information for effective youth participation,” he said.
Dubbed the Youth AfriCamp 2010, the theme of the forum was Youth, Media and Governance. It sought to provide a platform for positive transformation of African youth by encouraging them to harness new strategies to get their message heard. It is an initiative of the Open Society Institute Youth Program.