Why young people are reluctant to register as voters

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati addressed the press in Naivasha, Nakuru county on January 7, 2022. He said the second round of voter registration will start from January 17 to February 6. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Last week, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission announced the second and final phase of the enhanced continuous voter registration that will run from January 17 to February 6. During the first phase, the commission noted that the youth didn’t turn up in the numbers it expected, because, as one of the commissioners put it, they don’t believe the elections will change their lives in any significant way.

Perhaps what the commission should have endeavoured to find out is why the youth have developed this kind of consciousness. I might not have all the answers, but, as someone who falls in that constituency, I can help the commission understand why most youth aren’t willing to register as voters.

There is a growing sense of betrayal among most Kenyans especially the youth who feel politicians increasingly use them as collateral damage in the wake of personal reinvention and self-preservation. Kenyan youth understand politicians as people who want to use them to ascend to political power.

By abstaining from registering as voters, the youth are sending a message to the political class. They are expressing their unwillingness to be used as repositories for failed politicians who are unable to deal with the truth. My peers are basically saying that they aren’t precarious fads that should be used to make careers and brands of politicians look cool.

While they have accepted that politicians build lies like the Dutch build dykes, Kenyan youth are tired of the latter’s endless rhetoric, greed and incompetence. We are tired of the wooden mediocrity of sentimental nationhood that politicians sell to us every day.

Every five years, politicians promise the youth great things that hardly come to fruition. They use their positions to salt away public resources, sponsor violence and violate the rule of law. They have presided over a corrupt country where they are on the gravy train with huge salaries and allowances.

Ours is democratic politics, which is ideally a battle for good policy ideas, but politicians have turned it into autocratic politics, which is a battle for private rewards.

Politicians only seem to remember that the youth exist and that they have unmet expectations during elections which is why the youth feel cheated.

In his otherwise authentic element, former Somali President Said Barre once said the ideology which he was committed to was that of political survival. Kenyan youth are increasingly convinced that their politicians are Said Barres of this world, albeit with different names and slogans.

In short, the small numbers witnessed in the previous voter registration exercise – and possibly during the next one – is an act of protestation: A protestation against the current political leadership.

Dear Kenyan politicians, the youth would like to hear more about your intentions with their future and the future of this country once you get power. However, what you have told us so far is a solemn mockery of and an insult to our consciousness and aspirations. We understand that ‘volunteering’ to become a leader in these uncertain times isn’t a small thing. And we don’t take it for granted. However, it would be more meaningful if your volunteering brought some change in our lives.