It is time veteran politicians created space for the millennials

It is time veteran politicians created space for the millennials

By Victor Adar

Some Kenyans say coming together to vote for one young person to lead the country as president can pay off but it appears there is little to show for it with a majority of young people generally opting to support seasoned politicians. 

Driven by the need to incorporate the interests of young people and to stimulate economic growth, Miruru Waweru, Chair of Thirdway Alliance, argues that the alternative for Kenya is its “Young Turks”. 

“Women are not marginalised. Young people too are not marginalised,” says Waweru. “What is needed is active, meaningful representation. Things can be done. It is only that they are affected by historical injustices. They can vie and win in equal measure. It is all about quality of representation.”

What worries Waweru, though, is how the millennials have consistently been supporting the big boys even in cases where they are the ones with the upper hand. 

Mukhisa Kituyi (Bungoma County), Ukur Yattani (Northern Kenya) who is now the Treasury Cabinet Secretary and even lawyer Gitobu Imanyara are good examples of ‘hot’ candidates. Let’s think back to 2013 (remember the presidential debate?) which brought together former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Martha Karua. Those days, if joint campaigns with the interest of young people were in mind, some top politicians might have surrendered, which begs the question, what is the alternative for our country? What happens at the ballot? Aren’t there alternatives? 

Unfortunately, young people have failed to take up that chance despite their big numbers. Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that the country’s total enumerated population stands at 47, 564, 296. There are 23,548,056 males and 24, 014, 716 females while 1,524 are intersex. Of these 10.1 million are millennials. The population of women in the country is increasing hence the reasoning that women in particular, ought to decide the political destiny of this country. 

Besides, United Nations put Kenya’s youth population at around 9.5 million, which is over 20 percent of the population in total. Actually, an estimated 60 percent comprises of youth aged 15 to 24 years. Although, not all who are above 18 years of age will vote in 2022, young people can sway results. These numbers ought to affect voting. If the youth rally behind a candidate who aligns with their vision, they ought to win. 

Economist David Ndii and activist Okiya Omtata are beacons of youth enlightenment. They may not exactly be youthful yet their individual triumphs show that if the youth take advantage of the robust powers afforded to them by the constitution, the absence of resources or the powers of history behind them notwithstanding, they can actually be a force to be reckoned with. The starting point is information after all, what is the point of having a robust and progressive constitution if we cannot take advantage of its beauties? With numbers comes strength. 

But Ndii on his Twitter handle points out that nationhood and other rosy narratives like youthful leadership might just be a dream too far. “The Kenya project is dead due to our failure to develop a national narrative to nurture comradeship beyond the tribe,” he writes.

Activist Okiya Omtatah.

Omtata has certain qualities. In 2017, he vied for the Busia senate position and lost to the current Senator, Amos Wako. It didn’t deter him from his nationalist course and arguably, he has made a bigger difference than most of the politicians combined. 

Omtatah has taken full advantage of the Bill of Rights and in particular Article 22 to wage a one man war against impunity. In August 2019, it was about the new bank notes where he urged judges to find that them carrying the portrait of the founding president was unconstitutional. He might have lost but the storm he created was big enough to cause the powers that be to sit up and take notice, no doubt be more mindful of the Constitution next time.

The latest one is a petition he filed in November 2019 – petition No. Nairobi H.C. Constitutional Petition No. 532 2018 –, which brought out issues of public participation and questioned the procurement process of the EGMS. It was heard, and High Court in its judgment of 12th March 2018, held in favour of  Omtatah halting the implementation of this second phase of the EGMS. 

Section 28(1) (b) Excise Duty Act 2015 provides for the use of an excise goods management system to affix excise stamps. This Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has done through the Electronic Goods Management System (EGMS) in 2013. KRA decided to implement EGMS in two phases with the first phase covering wines, spirits, beer and cigarettes commencing in 2013. The Second Phase of the EGMS was to include other excisable products namely; bottled water, juices, soda, energy drinks, other non-alcoholic beverages food supplements and cosmetics.

On October 3, 2017 the commissioner of domestic taxes issued a public notice pursuant to section 28 of the Excise Duty Act 2015 as read together with legal notice No. 53 of 2017 to notify the public of the intended roll out of the second phase which was to take effect from 1st November, 2017.

Dissatisfied with the holding of the High Court, the tax man appealed this decision at the Court of Appeal and applied for stay of the High Court judgment. The court of Appeal in its ruling agreed with the tax man and granted stay of the High Court judgment on 11th May 2018. This in effect allowed KRA to proceed with the implementation of the Second Phase of the EGMS.

KRA subsequently embarked on extensive stakeholder engagement and rolled out pilot programs with some of the manufacturers of excisable goods with the system go- live date expected to be on 13th November, 2019. 

The full implementation of the EGMS is expected to net more revenue from excisable goods in addition to tackling counterfeit goods and deterring smuggling. This in essence will provide a level playing ground for all manufacturers and importers of excisable goods as well as ensure they all contribute to the tax basket equitably,” Kenya Revenue said in a statement.

Those are the developments that the country needs despite the proverbial politics is a dirty game. You never really know a man until he clinches a political position but it is worth trying to push up revolution oriented individuals. 

“Parliament has been working, but they seem to be working for the Executive. They need to represent the citizens,” says Waweru.

That is, perhaps, why it is better for the young people to reconsider their political choices. More often than not, young people would celebrate success stories and milestones of politicians who offer hand-outs. To realise full potential of a candidate, it must be evident that those who are interested in leadership roles are capable of shaking the apple cart. 

Technology advances can also come into play when mass support for young leaders is needed. In terms of publicity, online media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Telegram, WhatsApp, and even Instagram, can do wonders. That is the tribe and clan of young people.

A random interview with young Kenyans on the street reveals that what ails Kenya is the actions of leaders:

“People are waiting for other people to do something for them,” says Anne Nyaga, a 24 year old student nurse. “In this country most people participate in political activities when they are being paid. Look at the implementation of BBI (Building Bridges Initiative). Does it have reference in the Constitution? Young people like us would have looked at the initiative and say this thing will work or not. That’s the same lens we should use when electing leaders. We can tell who can deliver and who cannot. The problem is greed, and many are in it for the money.”

Ambrose Mwendwa, a taxi driver in Nairobi CBD, shares the same sentiments, adding that any youthful leader can still fight for space. Although a majority of Kenyans continue to grapple with a fast changing political landscape, they can rise to the occasion Even if it means simple mentorship of a few promising young people, he says, at the end of the day, young people are the future leaders. 

“I think we have not locked anyone out. Again, the rebellion against some current leaders and initiatives is growing. Some have tried to reach out to people like us but it is like those we think are revolutionary are not sincere. When they are doing something they just need money, and can stop doing something good the moment cash is offered,” says Mwendwa.

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