How easy is it for a twenty five year old Kenyan to kill himself than to live in this country? By Wanjiru Nguhi

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

Politics is too serious to be left to politicians by Wanjiru Nguhi

There was a time in 2016 I was volunteering for an Organisation that was training young children in primary schools on the ways to be a social entrepreneurs and why it was important for them to be social entrepreneurs. At that time I was so disappointed by the manner in which the government was running the affairs of this country and I thought social entrepreneurship was the way to go and that it would fill the void left by the government’s inadequacy. I was so sold out to this cause that I even did a video and in that video I stated how my dream was to see an Africa where politicians were so irrelevant and redundant that citizens were running their own affairs. I was onboard with the social entrepreneurship wagon and I was not going to falloff. When I lookback at this thinking, I don’t know whether to hug my younger self or give her a book. I will probably do both.

I changed my mind about politics after having a discussion that challenged the definition of Politics for me. Someone posed a question and asked, “Why are we so obsessed with the Presidential election? It is because the person that gets to occupy that seat has the power to control resources, because Politics is simply the negotiation of resources.”

It then goes without saying that when we fail to be engaged in political conversations as women and as young people, the decisions about our resources will be made in our absence, without our consent, without our knowledge.

Whenever we pay our taxes either in form of V.A.T or Pay As You Earn, it’s not just the money we give to the government, it’s our time, our energy, our emotions, our blood, sweat. If you pay a tax rate of 16 % that is 16% of your life and you have every reason to be involved in what the government does with that fraction of your life. If you will not be involved for anything else, be involved because the government has made it mandatory to invest a fraction of your life into it.

If there is anything we have learnt especially through this election cycle beginning 2017, is that all the aspects of our lives are determined by the type of politics. Everything from the price of fuel, to the availability of the said fuel, the quality, price and availability of sugar, the form one selection, KCSE and KCPE results, price and availability of charcoal the list is endless. The point here is when you look around your home, office, classroom, road everything around you is literally affected by the political environment including yourself!

If you doubt whether your existence is controlled by political forces, ask families who had to bury their loved ones simply because their community was considered a political liability. Go ahead and ask the Somalis who were rounded up at Kasarani because they were “terrorists” ask the Luo community how many bodies were thrown into Lake Victoria because they were “idle rioters” ask the families of young Kikuyu men from Nyeri and Muranga who were killed because they were part of “Mungiki” ask the survivors of the 2007/2008 post-election violence.

Voting is just one step, a civic duty but that is just the beginning, it is not where we end. The political environment is kept healthy through our continuous active participation as citizens. I encourage everyone to be active politically. Be a pain, a stubborn head ache, an annoying pimple on their forehead, a difficult to ignore itch on their skin until the next election. After you vote, repeat the cycle.

So how do you do this? I am glad you asked. The easiest representatives to get a hold of are the members of the County Assembly. They have an ability to be canny and slippery but they are reachable. Find out where their offices are and the days they meet with the people. For most wards it is usually on a Monday, but find out.

Join youth groups within your area and organize to meet your area MCA because checking authority is not a one person job, and it is not an activists job.. it is our concern and right. Ask what has been the progress, point out the promises made during the election period, point out the persistent problems you have had to survive and ask them to explain what has not been done and why. Please don’t accept empty answers. And take part in public participation forums in your area, what are in the budget plans for your area? Find out! Democratic Leadership is a collaborative process; it is not leadership if it doesn’t work for and with the people.

Written by Wanjiru Nguhi
Co-Founder of Mwafrika Mwenzangu | Lawyer | Political Strategist | Writer | Feminist

The roots of corruption are bitter and the fruits vile by Kaudo Philip

Many simply refer to corruption as indubitably the biggest impediment to Kenya’s development. Those who practice it simply term it as the just cause for the sumptuous life they live. Organizations and institutions tasked to counter it call it a live wire while majority of Kenyans intricately link it to the sorry state of nature in the country, the way things are.Corruption is the main cause of abject poverty that has engulfed majority of the citizens of Kenya. However, the irony is that both who engage in it and those who don’t practice it understand that corruption is indeed a bad thing. It simply involves the diversion of public resources for private gain. Since independence, Kenya has been on the receiving end for being tolerant to corruption as evidenced in the mega sagas in the country such as the National Youth Service scandal, The Health Scam, and The Goldenberg Scandal amongst others. It has led to the reduction of foreign aid aimed at uplifting the social status of the people of Kenya.

Evidently, independent reports from both Kenyan Anti-Corruption Agency and the international organizations reports have not only been earth shaking but mind boggling as well. These reports have been able to expose the prevalence of grand corruption that indeed occurs in Kenya. A 2016 Price waters report ranked Kenya as number three most corrupt nation. Recent reports have similarly unearthed massive corruption in the country with Transparency International ranking Kenya as amongst the top 10 most corrupt nations in the world. Indeed, this great nation has been hitting headlines for the wrong reasons. Corruption remains a national security threat despite Kenya being amongst the few African nations that did ratify the United Nations Convention against Corruption, a legally binding document in which Kenya committed to be a zero tolerant nation to corruption.

Corruption is intricately tied to the nature of our economy. It remains an existential threat to the realization of government’s commitment to nurturing and protecting the well-being of each and every citizen and the nation as put forth in the preamble of the constitution. Just as President Putin did recently put it, Kenya seems a cemetery for Kenyans. President Trump buttressing this statement refers to African countries as shithole nations.

The worst disease in Kenya today is corruption. It is a curse which Kenya suffers from. Its scathing effects has been felt in each and every sector of the economy. As a matter of fact, it has been the cause of the deplorable conditions in our roads, the sorry state of our healthcare systems, the dwindling education system, the unemployment, political crises, and the prevalence of impunity, the increased foreign debts and poverty. It is indeed a multifaceted aspect that actually needs to be cured. Most shockingly, fighting corruption remains one of the political tools used each and every election by politicians to assume public office. Each regime before assuming office has talked tough on this enemy of development. After assuming office, they simply wine and dine with the cartels. The promising politicians that Kenyans have pegged hopes on before elections have ironically metamorphosed from nationalists to cartels. At times, through corruptive means, individuals have rigged elections further threatening the thriving of democratic space in Kenya. They have simply turned a deaf ear on the war on corruption. These politicians have ignored the passionate call of the masses that live a life full of ups and downs at the mercy and glory of God.

In exchange of material benefits, individuals and institutions tasked to fight corruption have simply appeared to fight it. They have legalized state sponsored policies that failed in their mandate to hold public servants accountable and responsible. Instead, with the benefits of the corruptive deals, bureaucrats live an opulent lifestyle as the general public cry foul for negligence and betrayal. The only rhetorical questions lingering in their mind is why they do not actually enjoy the rights to development? Does it mean they are not protected by the Kenyan constitution which everyone is theoretically proud of? Why then has the government failed to implement the TJRC report of 2008 that aimed at addressing the social, economic and political challenges that Kenya faces? Does it mean that the state is also an existential threat to her own population?

Under the slogan, “I eat, you eat, we eat, “corruption seems a phenomenon with many folds that for a country like Kenya, it seems a farfetched dream to totally eradicate.However,the impossible is always possible. Kenya simply needs to rethink her strategy to fight this nuisance. At the center of eradicating corruption is the need to emancipate the general public about this menace. It simply demands a change in the mentality and the personality of the people of Kenya. Those who fight corruption should be clean. Their level of integrity in public offices should not be questionable. “When you see corruption, when you see injustice, you speak out, don’t just keep quiet and say it is none of my business”Mahal Shariff notes. The general public therefore has a pivotal responsibility to eradicate this cancer that demands everyone’s attention.

The citizen’s ignorance is indeed the cartels power. If we elect the same politicians every time, that is a very clear message that we indeed don’t need change. Failure to speak out on this menace simply means we support it.We only cry foul about its effects yet we don’t want to challenge it.
Rethinking the nature and effectiveness of our public institutions equally is necessary. It is however important to note that the current institutions, DPP, EACC, DCI have recently waged a recommendable move in this war. Kenyans are eager to eat the fruits. Let it not be that they preach water and drink wine. Transparency and accountability are prerequisites for economic development. Let’s change our mentality, personality and collectively fight corruption.

The writer, KAUDO PHILIP, is currently a student of political science in Maseno.

A glimpse of youth engaging county government in Busia and Samburu

My work at Siasa Place involves travelling a lot across counties and facilitating community engagements. We have community forums with young people on specifically public participation. I enjoy travelling, yes but in each forum, I am presented with different challenges and learning about different cultures, issues and how youth are organized.

Recently I was in Samburu County to collect views from the Youth on issues affecting them and how they would want the County to work in supporting them and from the dialogues one thing was clear- The county government does not have adequate avenues for available to engage with youth. The irony of the matter, is that this is within our constitutional provisions as a citizen, but in reality this goes against the objectives of devolution in Article 174 (c) of the Constitution that states that devolution will give powers to self-governance to the people and enhance participation in the exercise of the powers of the state and in making decisions affecting them.

Statistically with the youth being the majority, in the country just like in Samburu County it is unrealistic to do anything without involving the youth. Moving across the three constituencies in Samburu that is Baragoi in Samburu North, Wamba in Samburu East and in Maralal town which is the County headquarters the young people said in one voice that they are not meaningfully engaged in County affairs and this results them to make little or no input in the development agenda in the county.

While some may fault young people as lazy and who wait to be spoon-fed, it is also vital to identify cultural barriers, such as older people in the society looking down upon youth and that their views are not crucial or even listened to. Another issue in the northern community is women do not have a say despite the progress made by the community of even electing a woman as a member of parliament in the National Assembly representing Samburu West Constituency Hon. Naisula Lesuuda. It is therefore prudent that the society needs to be sensitized on why all the voices matter especially in issues of running the county government.

While I fault the County, youth have also lacked passion to be community changers and all they want are hand outs for them to attend their own community forums. Where is the problem? Morals or lack of a way of living? On this, it reminds me in 2007 as a young child, I was in the village and a politician came to our home during campaigns. I was excited to finally see this bearded man who was vying to be the MP in our constituency, my brother and sisters were all excited. He talked to my dad and mum who were eligible voters about his agenda and before leaving our home he gave my dad a brand new two hundred shillings note.

I didn’t know what it was for by then but later learnt that it was an incentive for my dad to vote for him on 27th December 2007. 11 years later I remember that incident like it was yesterday. I’m telling this story because a majority of young people that I interact with say, ‘’We don’t ask for money from Politicians.’’ Or ‘’Ukipewa huwezi kataa (If you are given, you cannot say no).’’ when it comes to asking for handouts or being paid to vote. The same mentality applies when it comes even to community forums or meetings, we expect to be paid to help ourselves.

We hear a lot about public participation and how it is a powerful tool for the people but it faces a myriad of challenges. Just last week, I was in Chakol North Ward in Busia County following a story by a group of youth from our trainings who had invoked Article 35 1 (a) to ask for information about pending bills from the Ward Administrator.

In the meeting that brought together the Ward Administrator, a representative of the Member of County Assembly (MCA) and the youth, I couldn’t help but notice how the Ward Administrator was shaking, she was extremely worried and looked stressed. I think imagining that we would deny her children bread the following day. One could clearly see that she had never been exposed to such kind of interaction. The discussions began and the youth explained what they wanted and why with good backings from the Constitution.

In the middle of the talks Mrs. Caren Moitit, the Ward admin said, ‘’Its not that we don’t want to share this information or hold public participation forums the challenge is that my office has no budgetary allocations for the same. It is very hard to call people to a meeting without refreshments they can’t sit on or a bottle of water during the meeting. I hope we can get well-wishers be it Non-governmental organizations to support us have public participation forums.’’ I was shocked at how a whole County can have budgets without a line for public participation or community dialogues. Is this devolution? Or is it a case of money is allocated but does not make it to Mrs. Caren’s office?

While these challenges exist it is time the youth realized that nothing can be done for them without them and our involvement will improve how the counties engage us.

Grayson Marwa

Some of us have to gamble to make ends meet BY KAUDO PHILIP MISORI

Courtesy of Standard Digital

IN the preamble of the promulgated 2010 constitution of the Republic of Kenya, it commits to nurture and protect the well-being of the individuals, the family, communities and the nation at large. Therefore, the states through elected and nominated representatives are mandated to ensure that Kenya is a better place to be –a safe haven. However, this has not been the case.

The politicians have turned a blind eye to their own people, especially the youth. On a comparative basis to other nations particularly developed economies, I as a youth, feel that the state has done little to nurture and protect the well-being of the young people of Kenya, who form the majority of the national population. They have been neglected and their hope that the new constitution would facilitate their empowerment remains shattered. Their voice is scarcely heard, while individuals nominated to represent their views and complaints do not seem to care.

The youth continue to question their place in this country. Actually, the political class views them best as an instrument for acquisition of power. In the name of empowering young people, politicians hires them to cause fear and havoc in political rallies. They solicit the youth by promising them lump sum jobs that do not materialize and some handouts. Through this, they deceive them and occupy public offices principally to pursue their narrow selfish interests. It is indeed due to lack of proper empowerment and proper representations that we, as young people live in deplorable conditions. This is despite the fact that the most of us are intelligent, energetic and innovative.

Most Youth Empowerment Programs organized by political leaders and stakeholders have been ineffective in solving the pertinent problems ranging from financial incapability to lack of political awareness. Some of the youth forums as recently evidenced in Homabay County, have been politically instigated and never providing solutions. Actually in such organized events, the youth are only given an opportunity to dine and wine with the politicians and that is all. The stakeholders turn a deaf ear on their quest for jobs, enrolment in both technical institutions and universities, nurturing of talent and initiation of projects aimed at helping the youths. At times, they have opted for short term solutions to youth problems.

The inefficiency of the state to empower the youth has resulted into more bad than good. Actually, most young people are poverty stricken due to unemployment prompting majority of them, especially those in slums to look for alternative illegal ways to earn a living. Some have opted to join radicalized groups that pose an existential security threat to the people of Kenya. They rob, assassinate in cold blood and at times survivors are left in deplorable condition while conducting the crime. Some have opted to sell hard drugs such as cocaine which is detrimental to a healthy living. Others have to gamble to make ends meet while others hawk in towns. Our youth must not be left vulnerable.

The best long term solution to solving problems affecting youth is facilitating real economic empowerment. This involves initiation of income generating projects and funding them with initial capital. The Government of Kenya, should, through seminars and workshop programs, educate the young people on viable means to safety living. These workshops should principally aim at helping them acquire knowledge and skills which are necessary in both the formal and the informal sectors of the economy. At the end of these programs, the young people should be equipped with both soft and hard skills that make them relevant in today’s work environment, as well as be in a position to maximise the few resources available to them for income generation.

The youth also need political empowerment, and this could also be used as a strategy to eradicate radicalization. Some young people, especially those in the slums join militia group simply because they feel marginalized and the fact that they lack the requisite knowledge on existing laws. Political empowerment involves creating political awareness about youth related matters amongst them their rights, their role in the society and the mechanisms they can use to air their grievances.

Each and every society is established on societal norms and laws. And if our youth are not empowered socially, we risk adopting sinful cultures that are detrimental to our societal beliefs and our cultural orientation is likely to negatively change.

An empowered youth is a productive Kenyan. It doesn’t cost much to empower our youth, who are today’s and tomorrow’s leaders. Empowerment of youth has both short term and long term positive effects. The state, interested individuals and the NGOs should consider this noble cause as a collective responsibility. This is one of the ways that can aid our youth feel part and parcel of the society, which will result to Kenya being a safe haven for all. On the other hand, the youth should be committed to continue working hard in all they do. They should explore their talent and be rational in decision making. “It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man” – Benjamin Franklin.

The writer, KAUDO PHILIP, is a former student of Miyuga, Lifeshine Sondu and Oriwo Boys High School and currently a fourth year at Maseno University Pursuing Political science. He hails from Homabay County in wangching ward.

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