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Kenya's youth have every reason to cause a revolution

Citizens demonstrate along the streets of Nairobi's CBD to reject the Finance bill. June 20, 2024. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

It was only last week that I warned of an impending political revolution led by the young people of Kenya through an article titled ‘Why we should not ignore a Gen Z-led political shift’.

Though I never mentioned it, the article was in response to a tweet by the President’s advisor on economic affairs, David Ndii, shrugging off tweeps who by then were just warming up online. 

Whatever happened thereafter must have caught everyone by surprise, but the clouds had been gathering.

For a long time, the so-called Generation Z had been assumed to be indifferent to the affairs of their country. Whenever they have attempted to put out their voice in their more familiar social media spaces, they have been dismissed as mere keyboard warriors. In a span of just a week, they have proved their mettle, and as they say, things are just starting to boil.

Tears well up in my eyes when I imagine the kind of burden we have placed on the young people of this country.

According to the Federation of Kenyan Employers, the rate of unemployment is highest among Gen Z and Millennials, which are between the ages of 15 and 34, at 67 per cent. The effect is that they now also bear the greatest burden of mental health issues and suicide.

It is in this generation where no level of education or course of study gives an assurance of a future. Just this week, someone shared on a WhatsApp group I belong the sad tale of an A student who went on to study 'statistics' only to end up back on the streets as a hawker, which is more of a norm than an exception.

Though I am a Millennial myself, where it was never any better, things have clearly gotten from bad to worse. It is a real and palpable pain that most of our elected leaders know nothing about or choose to ignore for their own convenience.

Think of the extremes that families go to educate their own with the hope that they will break the chain of poverty only to end up joining them in their poverty. That someone can excel in education with parents sparing nothing only for him to end up back on the streets is painful to the core. As a young parent, I have cause to worry.

The genesis of it all is the bad politics that Gen Z has now vowed to change. The politics of tribe and 'mtu wetu’ must die if Kenya is to rise again. For a long time, politicians rode on the politics of antagonism and division to get to power. When it became no longer tenable to ride on tribes following the 2007/2008 shock violence, other forms of propaganda and historical stereotypes found their space: dynasties, hustlers, ‘watu wa kung’oa reli’, and so forth.

Kenya is a beautiful country and has everything going for it except for its leadership. When a country collects more revenue than all East African countries combined, then you must agree that ours has never been a revenue problem. Thank God the Finance Bill 2024 has been an eye-opener. May those eyes never close.

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