The youths' drive for change means things will never be the same

Youth protesting in Nairobi on June 20, 2024, against the Finance Bill 2024. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

Revolutions are often spearheaded by the youth. Older generations, having built their lives over the years, tend to be more conservative, fearing the loss of what they have achieved and thus respecting authority. In contrast, the youth have little to lose and everything to gain. As one youth put it when I mentioned that the country could burn: “At least we shall warm ourselves by the fire and build a better country from the ashes, free from all the mess you guys have put us in!” I had no answer to that.

Our parents’ generation was beaten into submission by colonialists, carrying those scars for life and rarely ever talking about that period up to now. Our generation was traumatized by the Moi regime and saw firsthand the dire consequences of questioning power: detention without trial, trumped-up criminal charges, and the Nyayo torture chambers. But Generation Z has grown up in a time of freedom, unburdened by such trauma.

Preaching peace and stability to hungry, impatient youth is futile. When they see politicians stealing their future and find no hope in the system, they are ready to destroy it. When politicians tell them to seek jobs abroad instead of creating job opportunities in Kenya, when you tell graduates to seek work in construction sites, you have lost it.

The difference between the Mau Mau and Generation Z is schooling. The Mau Mau were hampered by the low level of education of its cadre. My village mate, the late General Stanley Kahinga Wachanga, who wrote “The Swords of Kirinyaga”, was among the most educated, having studied up to Form Two and attended a nursing course. He was known as the Mau Mau doctor and, after the war, opened a clinic at Gakindu market in Nyeri. Generation Z is well-educated, extremely media-savvy, and at the click of a button on their mobile phones, can reach the whole world.

Although revolutionary movements often start without clear leadership, leaders eventually emerge. Our government, currently preoccupied with tribal politics, struggles to address a leaderless and tribeless opposition. Initially, whenever there were demonstrations, you knew the leaders, and they would be called and pacified to call off the demonstrations. It was easy to brand the demonstrators as belonging to a certain community and mobilize other communities against them. You recall the so-called Nairobi Business community? Removing Raila Odinga from the political scene was initially seen as a strategic move. However, in hindsight, it might have been the best thing for the opposition, allowing new leaders to rise.

The outcome of this emerging opposition is uncertain, but one thing is clear: things will never be the same again. The youth’s drive for change and their readiness to challenge the status quo are forces to be reckoned with. As new leaders and movements arise, the landscape of political opposition will evolve, potentially leading to major shifts in the future.

In these transformative times, understanding the pivotal role of the youth in driving change is crucial. Their energy, impatience, and vision for the future make them natural leaders in the quest for a better society. They challenge the status quo, not out of a desire for chaos, but out of a deep-seated belief that they can build something better from the ashes.

Mr Njora is a lawyer and an expert in property law. [email protected]

By AFP 22 mins ago
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