KIRIGO: The youth hold the yam and the knife; slice it wisely

KIRIGO: The youth hold the yam and the knife; slice it wisely

By Kirigo Ng’arua, Nairobi, Kenya

Last week on the Power Breakfast Show we hosted a group of young students from different universities and our conversation was on youth and voter registration. This was necessitated by the need to understand why the youth were reluctant to register as voters and exercise their democratic rights in the coming elections.

We also hosted the youngest Member of Parliament in the current House, Kinoti Gatobu, the Buuri MP and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) deputy CEO Betty Sungura Nyabuto.

Statistically, close to 70% of Kenyans are youth; meaning they fall in the age bracket of 18 -35 years.

The conversation started with the young folks in studio expressing their indifference to the political system and lack of interest in the electoral process. Out of the six youth we hosted, two had not registered as voters and had no intent to do so. The youth cursed the country’s leadership over what they termed as failure to honour their campaign promises.

One of the six youth said that majority of his peers do not believe in the system because of the government’s apparent failure to win their trust by taking care of their interests.

I resonated with the young man following the news making headlines over a period of time now; corruption, fraud, theft and illegal accumulation of wealth. The country has lost millions of shillings through well-orchestrated frauds. Many scandals have painted grim the photo of the government; the NYS tendering scam, the Youth Fund theft, the Eurobond and Anglo-leasing among others.

The National Youth Service is a government department that was established by an Act of Parliament on September 1st, 1964 and has two purposes: to create a pool of technical, disciplined and organized human resource to undertake national development programs; to alleviate youth unemployment in both formal and informal sectors by providing skills necessary for employment.

The President launched the new look NYS in 2013 in a move considered sacred as it would employ hundreds of youth as well as help eliminate crime and other vices such as drug abuse. According to the latest survey conducted by the Aga Khan University, 55% of Kenyan youth are unemployed.

The NYS programme started on a good footing after President Uhuru Kenyatta re-launched it. Fast forward, two years later, Ksh 791 million has already vanished into thin air through scandalous tendering.

The scandal was first heard of when former Prime Minister and CORD leader Raila Odinga said that close to Ksh 1 billion had been mismanaged at the NYS, claims the government was fast to dismiss as baseless.

The Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF), the second casualty of fraud, was established in 2006 with the sole purpose of reducing unemployment among the youth. Its focus is on enterprise development as a key strategy to increase economic opportunities for, and participation by Kenyan Youth in nation building.

According to its website, the YEDF has so far disbursed Ksh 3.8 billion to the youth. It also says that it has financed over 157,000 youth enterprises to a tune of Ksh 5.9 billion. There have been success stories with thousands of youth building their enterprises through market support and entrepreneurship training.

An important thing to note here is that majority of the Kenyan youth, 48% according to the Aga Khan University research, would like to venture into entrepreneurship; so the YEDF was a sign that many would be able to go into business because of the low interest rates offered on the fund.

The sad news is that the Youth Fund chairman and board cannot account for close to Ksh 192 million; another major blow to the economy and the youth.

The NYS and the YEDF scandals have, somewhat, influence the believes of the youth and propagated the feeling that the systems put in place by the government do not work for them. In perspective, I perfectly understand my fellow youth. No one enjoys being let down.

That said, the youth need to stand up coming from the reality that they form the largest age group in the country.

“But how do we change things in the country when it’s the same people year-in-year-out? When it’s the same system and structure in place every 5 years? When we have lost faith in things set up for us?” asked one student.

“As much as we rely on the leaders to steer the change, we need to remember that we also have to be the change we want to see in society. It starts with you and me. For me, the question has always been how we go about it. And the answer I discovered is very simple and something that I have heard many a times; Change has to start with me,” replied MP Gitobu.

As the interview progressed, many viewers felt that today’s youth feels entitled to everything because the government has realized the importance of this age group for its future and political propensity. Many felt that the youth want everything handed over to them on a silver platter.

Research shows that 40% of the youth have said that they would only vote for a candidate who bribed them. Why should this be so? The cycle needs to break and this can only happen if change happens within us first.

Have you picked your voter’s card? We might have given up on our country but remember we are the ones who will be left with this country. Register as a voter, it is your right, your chance to make things right.


Kirigo Ng’arua is a news anchor and reporter at Citizen TV Kenya.

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