Network for Youth in Transition

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Youth and the 2013 elections – Emmanuel Dennis

Kenyan youth have an opportunity to prove they are not agents of doom by informatively taking active roles in ensuring peace is maintained during this 2013 electioneering process. Perhaps the 2007 bungled elections brought out a scar in the nation’s fiber as epitomized in the roles youths played in destroying property and tranquility in showing their dissent over the results of the presidential elections. The aftermath was bloodshed and loss of livelihoods to many. The energies that youth can expend are evidenced in how they exemplify their work in different sectors.

From juakali industries, athletics and other sports disciplines, music and the arts, entrepreneurship, information technology and education among others, the youth have illustrated they can and ready to constructively discuss the country’s future in a clear-headed manner. Over the period, youth have also taken up other roles of enlightening citizens on the coming general elections. Some of these roles include taking part in civic education on the elections generally including the various roles of elected officials, their requirements and why voters should vote wisely. They have also been educating citizens on dispute resolution mechanisms to ensure voters only use available legal mechanisms of resolving disputes and not resulting to violence.

The youth are a critical pillar of society. Currently, youth constitute 70% of the population of Kenya, a significant percentage that can offer prudent guidance to the leadership of the country. The constitution affirms that youth are aged between the ages 18 – 35. These are a people who have the education to think beyond their ethnic nests and other parochial interests to safeguard their future which they will enjoy for many years to come and their generations too.

The National Youth Sector Alliance (NYSA) has been involved in many youth projects across the country. NYSA is a multi-stakeholder forum that provides government and private sector an avenue to engage with the youth. NYSA has so far been able to conduct county forums and sector based youth conversations in 38 counties in which the youth have vowed to maintain peace and focus on development issues as they hold their leaders accountable. The culmination of this journey was in February when over 1000 youth leaders converged in Nairobi to share ideas on how they will ensure peace is promoted and also deter occurrences of violence using community action cells as tools for embedding personal and collective accountability.

As the country heads to the election, the Youth have become the natural target for votes by all contenders of political offices. Youth unemployment in Kenya is at its high with an increasing youthful population in the country. Youth unemployment in Kenya currently stands at 18%. It is higher in urban (33%) than in rural areas (17%) and severe among young women (24%) than among young men (19%). Indeed unemployment among the countries young generation is becoming a social misfit as seen by the escalating insecurity situation in the recent past. The issue of unemployment will be the LITMUS TEST, if indeed youth is priority to the politicians. It is also going to be interesting to see if the youth will put forward a strong accountability case to the political aspirants with plans to combat unemployment as a campaign tool.

For NYSA, the time for accountability has come when Political Aspirants must demonstrate their commitment to ensuring the wellbeing of the unemployed youth all in their areas of representation all over the country. According the 2012 African Development Outlook, the high unemployment among the young has an implication for income distribution. This is because returns to growth accrue to only those who supply the factors of production. The report by the African Development Bank (AfDB) states that with the favourable economic achievements realized in the last ten years, unemployed young people are missing out on the gains.

The different Political Coalition Manifestos have outlined how they will mainstream youth in their ambitions falling short of exemplifying how they will break down the high numbers of unemployment moving forward. NYSA conducted a Youth Formations survey in November and December 2011 in which revelations of 7 forms of youth formations were discovered in 24 counties (Faith, Economic, Tribal, Social, Political, Surreptitious and Online Formations). The report discovered that while many youth are culpable to political manipulation, they main cause is the lack of livelihoods.

The report went further to find the operation of some of the undercover gangs that are a security threat. The chilling discovery being that some of the gangs are well financed by unknown click of Political elites who are hell bent to continue a hold onto political and economic power of the country. Some of the gangs have camouflaged as income generating activities while in real sense they are armies for the protection of certain political interests. The Youth Formations survey report outlined some key recommendations on how the youth will contribute to the stability of the country ahead of the elections.

A key discovery was made in the survey that politicians were the number one cause of violence in the country. The youth intend to be more vigilant and report the politicians who divide the country while in the political campaigns. The youth also allude to the fact that they are more organized than in the previous campaign years since they have programs and projects that they would rather be financed rather than being bribed to cause mayhem in the country.

A close analysis of the happenings on the campaign trail reveal that while there are a number of very focused youth who had rather concentrate on their income generating activities, majority of the idle ones have been actively involved in the campaign teams of the various political aspirants but at a fee, a clear sign that financial gain is the biggest motivation for their involvement in political activity. NYSA and its affiliate members have been encouraging the youth to support visionary leaders who have capacity to bring development in their communities.

A signature on the NYSA blog indicates that they call upon the youth across the country to support their fellow youth leaders seeking election as Members of county Assemblies as the beginning of a revolution that will see real and effective change in the governance structure of the Kenya. NYSA’s leadership believes that it is fresh, visionary and energetic leadership that will deliver the country from the doldrums of under development. This they attribute to their continued recruitment of members across the country to join the call to action in support of youth leadership at various levels of political and community leadership.

It remains to be seen if the youth will be the new road blocks to corrupt leadership as the country transitions into the devolved units of Government. One thing is clear, that the number of very focused youth initiatives are on the rise, and that it is not going to be business as usual for the new crop of political leaders as the youth are now more empowered with sophisticated tools and methodology by which they will use for monitoring adherence to the new constitution and accountability of public resources.

If the culture of Community Action Cells for leadership and accountability is going to take root across the country, then Kenya is poised to get a responsive citizenry that will not shy away from asking their leaders the difficult accountability questions. It is time for the youth to rise up to the leadership challenge and force the county governments to work for them. The Youth have the power to change the way governance issues are led in Kenya. NYSA will continue to recruit youth leaders into the positive cells that will define a new paradigm shift for leadership through a representative country wide movement.

So will the youth come out in large numbers to support their fellow youth in the 2013 general elections?

Will the county government begin to listen to their voices of reason for the betterment of the counties?

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 to.

Emmanuel Dennis is the Convener National Youth Sector Alliance (NYSA)

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