What is at stake for the youth as we troop to the ballot box?

Ballot boxes and other election materials at Moi Secondary School, Nakuru. March 2, 2021. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard] 

The youth are the second-largest group in Kenya and Africa after children. According to statistics, Kenya is experiencing a youth bulge, a phenomenon in which 20 per cent or more of the population is in the age bracket of youth.

Depending on how the country prepares for the phenomenon in terms of policies and actions based on the policies, this can be a blessing or a curse. The age group is linked to high energy output, which, when directed positively, yields the best results, and vice versa.

Therefore, long term prosperity and stability or even destruction of a country hinges on the shoulders of its youth particularly through opportunities afforded to them or actions taken by themselves. However, the single most important thing is for the generation to discover their mission and as opined by Frantz Fanon, ‘Each Generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it in relative opacity’.

Since independence, youth at different times based on the situation have taken certain actions, for instance in 1950s youth took different spaces but all were working for an independent country, those in Legco, in the forest or like Thomas Mboya in workers’ union all advocated the same thing. And in the subsequent struggles such as the struggle against one party system, youth took centre stage and advocated reinstatement of the multiparty system.

The key question is: what is the mission of our generation, and how can we advocate for it? The answer is in the country’s existing challenges. According to research institutions, over 40 per cent of youth with documents are unemployed, and employers have been closing their doors since 2019, and government agencies have no vacancies. Unemployment is a major issue that leads to depression; additionally, corruption has exacerbated the situation by allowing powerful and well-connected individuals to continue stealing from the public, to the point where the president has helplessly stated that he can do nothing about the scandals, causing the public to lose faith in the governance process.

The public sector’s crooked nature kept increasing public debts by borrowing externally and internally at excessive interest rates and under conditions that were hidden from the public. Parliament and the Executive have contributed to this. The Executive continues to produce budgets above the country’s ability to fund, and the deficit is covered by borrowing. Parliament adopts such budgets.

For the unemployed youth, there is a narrow window of opportunity in this General Election. It accords us the opportunity to elect at least a better devil among those presented to us mainly by the political parties. These elected representatives are bestowed with different roles such legislating, development of policies and implementation.

Reasonable candidates may exist for every post from president to MCAs, and as you cast your one vote of 21 million, carefully evaluate each candidate’s interests, abilities, and opinions on important issues and concerns. Elect those with workable proposals and a track record of working with or for the society. If we get it right at the bottom (MCA), the county assemblies will become formidable houses that make precise decisions rather than doling out money to initiatives that enrich individual pockets.

To identify such individuals with plans, the criterion should include the objects of devolution under Article 174 of our Constitution, their understanding of not what ails the country but what can be done about it, and if they have plans for legislating, oversight, and reasonable public involvement and accountability, please vote.

Lack of the above are the reasons why the county assemblies have failed in their roles making the devolved units just a big creature with no much effects to the people. The assemblies were left to be the house of individuals always complaining and wailing and the work of governors is filling their mouth to avoid impeachment.

I believe if we make a better decision not influenced by Sh50 or tribal affiliations and elect better candidates we shall achieve our generation’s mission, otherwise we might be headed the destructive way.  

-The writer is a lawyer. Twitter: @moalim_ahmad.