Before I say anything here, my sincerest and deepest condolences go out to everyone who lost a family member, friend or colleague to the terror attack at the 14 Riverside Drive on the 15th day of January 2019. And for those that were injured and still recovering from the trauma I am deeply, deeply sorry.
I will say a few things that struck me about the attack. We have learnt that nothing just happens in this country. It is either a case of sheer negligence or a larger evil scheme at work. One of the most iconic duos in this country is negligence and interests. We see that every single day.
It was reported by the Nation that the suicide bomber involved in the attack was 25 years old. The bigger question is, was his involvement solely based on religion, as we are pushed to believe when it comes to recruiting youth in extremist groups? One day when we are ready, we need to talk about how easy it is for a twenty five year old Kenyan to blow themselves up than it is for the same twenty five year old to make it in this country. When I talk about making it, I am talking about being able to afford necessities like food, housing, health, education, clothes, and transport, a decent way of living. With the growing population of youth in our country, these questions are concerning.
At the beginning of the month of December 2018, I had the honour of attending the first ever Youth Workshop on Governance, Corruption and Integrity at the United Nations Office at Nairobi. Various government officials attended and even addressed the delegates representing young people from the 47 Counties.
What I noted with great concern is the government’s representatives condescending attitudes towards young people. We were in a conference addressing corruption but government officials somehow managed to point fingers at the youth in attendance by asking “as young people, what are you doing? Don’t just complain about what the government is doing or not doing, do something for you as well.” I rolled my eyes to the back of my head every time a government official stood up to ask young people what it is they had done for themselves, a clear deflect tactic to avoid responsibility.
I don’t think there is a generation of young people that has been gas lit and guilt tripped as the current crop of young people today. We can begin with the fight for our public institutions specifically Health and Education. It is very easy for young people to sink into a dark place where we question our relevance, believe we are useless, doubt our own existence but even in that grim and gloom, there are some things we are doing right. They might seem irrelevant but it is important to note that we are doing something.
ONE: Keeping your government accountable and calling out institutions that undermine the humanity of the Kenyan people. During 14 Riverside terror attacks, the Kenyans on Twitter called out the New York times for posting pictures of dead bodies on their website, something that is never done whenever there is a terror attack in London, Paris, Las Vegas. Jim Chuchu said it very well on his twitter handle @jimchuchu “….We refused to be contextualized and framed by a biased, insensitive, blame-shifting, post delete.” he ended the tread by calling on Kenyans to “Refuse Indignity”. To everyone who tweeted, retweeted, emailed the New York Times to take down the photos and apologize to the Kenyan families, reported the insensitive handles, signed the petition, refused to spread terror jokes, refused to participate in Islamophobia, donated blood….what you are continuously doing is owning the narrative of what it means to be Kenyan, defining for yourselves what the Kenyan spirit is about, and that is revolutionary. Own it and keep at it!! When anyone from the government tries to gaslight you into silence, ask them about #LipaKamaTender #UnemploymentDisasterKe #StopExtraJudicialKillings #WhiteConservationLie #StopTheseThieves #NewCurriculumKe
TWO: In the 2017 general elections that were held in August young people turned out to vote. A very important democratic process. According to Quartz Africa, Out of the 19.6 million registered voters, 51% of these voters were young people. You and I. So when the government condescendingly asks you “What have you done”, you will look them in the face and tell them “I voted for you, what have you done with that vote?
THREE: Every Kenyan is a taxpayer. That means you pay government salaries, you keep the government running, you pay for trips overseas, you are now paying loans. When a population is overtaxed, underserviced and overburdened, it makes the environment difficult for people to build optimistically.
FOUR: We ran for office, we worked for candidates we believed in, many of us and our candidates didn’t win, we learnt our lessons. We will continue to vie and we are members of political parties that we believe in.
The list cannot be exhausted in a single article. Young people are surviving poor policies and looting leadership every day. Yet we wake up every day to fight, and we have scars to show for that. We are not lazy, we are not thieves, we are not entitled. We are not people that will be gas lit; we are people who will hold the government accountable, we are people who will hold each other to a higher and more human standard. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
Written by Wanjiru Nguhi
Co-Founder of Mwafrika Mwenzangu | Lawyer | Political Strategist | Writer | Feminist