Sunday, 27 May 2012

Young People Deserve more than just Rhetoric

Young People Deserve more than just Rhetoric
With the campaign season now in full throttle, the good news coming out of all the political rallies is that the youth of Kenya are finally a highly desired electorate.
With all this attention on a previously ignored demographic segment, surely the concerns and challenges facing young people in Kenya will hopefully be addressed seriously.

With young people consisting of an estimated 60% of Kenya’s population, this is obviously a significant section when it comes to elections. At 60% of the population, making them about 24 million Kenyans, surely even a 50% vote garnered from this demographic would ensure a one way ticket to State House. How exciting, how exhilarating, to see so many young people attending political rallies all over the country, joining all sorts of political parties and dancing to the tune of the political leaders. It must be a boost to one’s political ego and prowess to be able to fill an event to bursting with dancing, cheering youth. Certainly, it’s warming to see how much hope these young people have for themselves, for their dreams to somehow come true, if they just trust their leaders one more time.

So with all these young people everywhere, dancing for different politicians from different political parties; with all these young people, willing to start loving each other as Kenyans willing to help these different political parties form the next government, with all their fragile hopes and dreams hanging on each and every word the politicians utter, is it too much to expect these leaders to get specific as to how exactly they plan to solve and meet the challenges faced by 24 million young people?

Its one thing to talk about getting young people to take up their civic responsibilities and go and vote, it’s quite another to talk about changing their lives and circumstances when you don’t tell us how you are going to do it. We are talking about 24 million young Kenyans who are unemployed, or under employed. We are talking about young people who need education, training, housing, food, a livelihood and a career for their future. We are talking about young people who are struggling to make ends meet, who cannot afford rent, let alone own their own homes, who bear the greatest economic burden and whose future prospects are dire if their present circumstances do not change for the better.

Sifting through all the stirring speeches given at political rallies, one can only wonder what the objective of even mentioning youth at such rallies could be. Repeating back to the youth, how you know they are suffering and in what way, does not solve their problems. And stating rhetoric about how imperative it is to address their issues is not a solution. Young people need a solid strategy, much like the financial plans, or vision 2030 that everyone keeps referring to. To pretend, that you will come up with a strategy the day after inauguration is to assume that young people are not just poor, they are daft. And to spew rhetoric to the youth, in sheng, is an insult to their mental faculties. But worse than all this, is to imply that once you are the governing political party or once you are in government, the previously non-existent youth strategy will be implemented is just repulsive. Surely you jest, because unless we are all asleep or something, most presidential candidates are or were in this government for the past 5 years, and in previous governments as well! Forgive me for my skepticism, but if in years in government, you did not have a comprehensive plan for 60% of the population, and you do not have a plan to talk off in your rallies today, what magical wand will wave to give you a plan in 2013?

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Laureate in Economics, put it best. “If in your country, college graduates are unable to gain employment within their chosen professions, you are crippling your economic future.” The young people of Kenya need a consideration and an accommodation that goes beyond mentions in the constitution and an economic strategy that goes far beyond the capabilities of the Youth Enterprise Fund. The youth need Kenya and its politicians and political parties to take their concerns as seriously as Europe is taking its economic crisis. That means, spare us the rhetoric please, and come up with serious, specific, comprehensive strategies that indeed will feed the hopes and dreams of young people. Regardless of their political affiliations or preferred candidates, or ethnic background young people all have the same one thing in common and that is unemployment. That alone should unite them in demanding more than just rhetoric from their political leaders.

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