, BUNGOMA, Kenya, Feb 23 – The US government has released Sh3.6 billion to support the political and economic empowerment of youths across the country.
The money to be disbursed through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will be spread out over a three-year period and distributed to all the counties countrywide.
While launching the programme in Bungoma County, US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger said the money would strengthen youth leadership and prevent a repeat of the 2007 post-election crisis.
"Some of the things that fuelled the post election violence were poverty, unemployment and the period impunity that had gripped this country. And if these things are solved, Kenya will be a very stable country," he argued.
Mr Ranneberger further said that the country\’s economic prosperity and the reform agenda were intertwined making it necessary to empower youths and promote democracy.
He singled out the youth as the main drivers of the change that Kenyans yearned for and challenged them to demand for accountability from their leaders.
"A lot has been said about poverty and unemployment but we have to be realistic. You will not have the jobs you need unless the economy grows… and the economy will never grow at the rate it needs to grow unless fundamental reforms are undertaken," he argued.
He added that Kenya\’s economy needed to grow at a 10 percent rate if the country was to tackle poverty and unemployment.
Mr Ranneberger, who has in the past run into trouble with the political class for his agenda with the youth, also discredited arguments that the funds were an attempt by his government to topple the leadership regime.
He explained that the money would be used to create jobs by financing micro economic programmes for and by the youth.
"We are not supporting political parties or a politician. We want to support you in your attempts to participate in the democratic process by coming together in coalitions so that you can push for change. It is not about me," he said.
During the launch, Western Province received a Sh196.4 million allocation. This money will be distributed to the counties in the province and is set to benefit 30,000 youths.
Youth groups interested in the grant will be required to submit proposals showing their programmes to USAID. The US organization will give more details on the same in advertorials in local dailies.
All the provinces in the country will get their share standing at between Sh196 million and Sh245 million. The monies for Coast province will be released on March 3 followed by Nairobi, Central and Rift Valley provinces.
Eastern, Nyanza and North Eastern will get their share later.
"The allocation for Western province is the first of a series that will cover the whole country," explained the Ambassador.
He also renewed his challenge to the youths asking them to shun negative ethnicity and violence.
The ambassador further promised to release his government\’s report, on the drugs syndicate in the country, in the coming week. He also refuted claims by Juja MP William Kabogo that he was harassing him.
"Let me say this as well… no one sent guards to Kabogo\’s residence," he said.
He further lauded President Kibaki\’s change of heart over the judicial nominees saying it would help the country move forward with her reform agenda.
The American government also intends to launch another fund aimed at facilitating women\’s peace campaigns.
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