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

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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Afro-Optimism and its future in Africa by Austin Muthuma

‘Afro-optimism’ could be the tool to decolonize African mind and lead to Africa`s renaissance, but only if actualized carefully. Ebere Onwudiwe in the book ‘Afro-optimism: Perspective on Africa`s Advances’ refers to Afro-optimism as “the state of absolute conviction that a bright future lies ahead for the African continent.” It’s an ideological notion that the once ‘dark continent’ is on the verge of a grand renaissance, overcoming historical scars; slavery, colonization, dictatorship (poor governance) and corruption. The media particularly social media has been a core driver of this infant but fast rising notion- although quite unnoticed-by giving the largely ‘undocumented continent’ a platform to showcase its values and culture on a global level.

Africa in 21st century is increasingly being defined through African literature and not the white precursor. 2018 has witnessed most publicized Afro-optimistic activities, and probably breathing sense to the fairly new notion. First it was the Black Panther an all black cast movie that broke major historical and current stereotypes of black movies not selling and mainly depicting Africa as a super developed continent devoid of foreign exploitation. Africans, Asians, whites and all other races alike lined up in cinema halls across the world dressed in African attire appreciating the culture in support of Africa.

The second event is the just concluded world cup football tournament where France whose team is mostly composed of players of African origin, won the cup. The magnitude of this conversation bursting to an exchange between France ambassador to US, Gerard Araud and American based South African comedian Trevor Noah. Noah`s affectionate sentiments, “I’m so exited! Africa won the world cup!” in his satirical Daily show seemed to have angered French ambassador to a point of writing a protest letter to the Daily show criticizing Noah’s sentiments. According to Gerard, Noah comments could be equated to those of a supremacist or racists.

This sparked a conversation online about African immigrants in the west particularly France, with Noah accusing the French government of double standards by acknowledging French black players as French but at the same time having harsh stance on African immigrants. Although the two events had a significant impact in bringing to light the ideology of Afro-optimism, the French case raises some important issues regarding the thin line between afro-optimism and afro-pessimism.

Coined by Frank Wilderson, a South African intellectual during the apartheid regime, Afro-pessimism was a phrase denoting Africa`s scars of slavery and colonialism and their negative structural impacts to the continent in post-colonial era. His intentions were to use the scars to unite Africans and overcoming post-colonial challenges. However this was short lived as western media hijacked the notion using it to portray Africa as a failure on economic growth and governance. The latter maintaining its meaning up to date.

This has been carried on in how Africans perceive or actualize Afro-optimism, making it hard to distinguish between optimism and pessimism. From the two events, despite occurring in the western world, Africans seem to be highly appreciative when a fellow African has made an achievement else where than in Africa which sometimes boarders more on pessimism rather than optimism. French black player`s success united Africa by proving that Africans contribute significantly to foreign successes. The distinction between optimism and pessimism lies in perception. If the player`s success inspires Africans to recognize their potential and extrapolate it from the west to Africa then it’s optimism. On the other hand if it creates a notion of success through developed west facilitation, then its pessimism as it encourages emigrant exodus to the west.

The same Afro-pessimism problem affects the African youth today and is considered one of the key drivers of migration. According to a report by Afrobarometer in its mid-report released June this year, it approximates 16% of youth in Africa having thought of emigrating to the west. This worrying figure confirms the level of afro-pessimism on African youth toward their continent and its future. However one cannot deny the fact that there are harsh push factors: political intolerance and unemployment, which propel emigrants to take the life threatening journey. But a keen analysis on the youth justifications reveals that, many believe the west provides the greener pasture irrespective of one being skilled or unskilled, which is not always the case.

Is there a formula for inscribing afro-optimism in our minds? Yes, Africans must start by telling The African story, by Africans, for Africans and in Africa. We need to start appreciating African heroes and heroines in Africa so as to inspire change and reduce occidental African heroes. Afro-optimism could be Africa`s soft power especially on a socio-cultural terms by decolonizing our minds from perceiving the western culture as the supreme culture over others. Failure to incept Afro-optimism from our own perspective will render the young concept as just another rhetoric like the once raved pan-Africanism. It might be time for Africa`s renaissance but in order to win over the ‘white man`s consensus’ the process needs to be carefully thought and actualized and Afro-optimism provides the starting point. If it’s all in the mind, then it must start from the mind.

By Austin Muthuma


MAROKO NYACHIO is a hand cart operator

In the wake of the report on the mistreatment of Kenyan workers, in the railway sector by foreign contractors, the government, through its spokesman dismissed the allegations as self-centered activism that it has no tolerance for. I have always been confused about the real essence of government in relation to its people. I do not know if I should attribute this to my limited education or whether it is occasioned by the confusion one draws from observing day to day government operations. From my ignorant assumption, I would opine that a government should come to fore as an initiative of the people, informed by the need to have a harmonious existence out of man’s interdependency.

With all the naivety of my assumption, I would be forgiven for the consternation with which I received the government communiqué. With a straight face and no minced words, the spokesperson relayed what he called ‘the government position’! After all was said, the sum of it all was that, the government, chided its people, for daring to complain about mistreatment by ‘contractors’ of the state working on a government flagship project which the government has been all too keen to remind all and sundry that it was above board. No questions, no complains, just bow down.

You see, I would have no problem with this kind of attitude. I know all too well that authority is not something to be questioned in this part of the world, I don’t even object if authority exhibited dictatorial tendencies (you can throw your stones) benevolent or not. I wouldn’t mind being spoken down to, or being reminded where I belong, I would prostrate to authority if required to. But that is if, and only if, the government is established by the people, for service to the people, and strictly in the interests of the people. This way, I would bubble up with patriotism, but under the current dispensation, I confess to have none. And for the proponents of ‘najivunia kuwa mkenya’, I request that you share the glories that I’m missing out on.

From my limited point of view, I would presume that the very essence of a government would be the security of its people. And its core mandate to guard against any threats, real or perceived so that its people live in harmony and happiness, what in mechanical terms would be called ‘shock absorber’. But the security of a people is the people themselves. People are stronger when they combine their strengths and pull their resources together. To do this, they have to establish a central point of coordination; which births the government. The government’s most valuable asset is the people, they are the primary capital. The progress and of any Nation depends on its ability to utilize its human resource, physical and intellectual, for the overall exploitation of its natural resources.

The physical human resource is manual labour, the intellectual resource is skills and knowledge. How a people are adept at exploiting these two resources has an overall bearing on their standing in the larger society. A Nation that ensures total utilization of the two consolidates its value; any that sources any of the two from outside its borders exports its value. A government can fall short of the physical human capital if it is hit by a population shortage, (which case we don’t suffer); the intellectual capital if its people are slow in exploring the secrets of the universe. But this does not in any way limit their capability to grasp and execute. It therefore behooves the government facing this challenge to spare no effort in acquiring and arming its people with the requisite knowledge and skills, in order to harness the full potential of its people and consolidate their value and sustain their dignity.

But when a government outsources physical human resource, intellectual resource and material capital, like in the case of the SGR, it raises questions like first, do those in government honestly understand the object, role and function of government (of which they can be forgiven if they don’t), or do they have an outside agenda which is contrary to the object of ‘government’? This, I ask because; by the government importing manual and skilled labour, regardless of the project, when it is grappling with runaway unemployment; is that not a travesty? By this very act, it devalues the people, and swaps their essential capital and exposes them to indignity. By government admission, Kenya has no shortage of qualified and skilled people; it only questions their ability to deliver on standard, and finds excuse in the argument that even the private sector is sidestepping locals for expatriates. This begs the question; whose prerogative is it, to ensure proper utilization of our potentials?
f-Maroko Nyachio
t @ MarokoNyachio

Lets Remind Ourselves Of Public Participation By Samwella Lerno

Writer is a contributor of Siasa Place’s writer’s podium

Citizen participation is a requisite for strengthened devolution, for devolution to work the people must be involved in the decision-making and oversight functions. The objects and principles of devolved government according to Article 174 are to; (c) give powers of self-governance to the people and enhance their participation in the exercise of the powers of the state and in making decisions affecting them, (d) Recognize the rights of the communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development.

Public participation is ideally based on belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process. A mantra that has fuelled disability rights movements over the years ‘Nothing about us, without us’ James Charlton, the author of a book by the same title expresses the conviction of people with disabilities that they know what is best for them any decision that is made without them is not for them.

The whole purpose of citizen involvement through public participation is to give citizens power to have a say in all matters. This ensures governments achieve key milestones in democracy; improved performance as citizens gets involved in identifying their needs, priority areas and increased sense of ownership. Citizens become partners with their governments in a manner that promotes good governance and human rights.

To trickle down a sense of ownership on the citizen’s part in development is crucial in minimization of wastage from governments. Without treating citizens as partners there is danger that policies, programmes and interventions implemented at community levels will simply be imposed upon them.

Why public participation?

Public participation leads to better decisions by improving quality of decisions made in a community. Where a process is inclusive, participants (governments and citizens) get an opportunity to clearly identify issues that are at play in any decision or project or challenge.
After identifying issues, clarity is sought so that all views are obtained.

All alternatives are weighed and the best option is picked to aid in decision-making. Decisions made in this manner benefit from community contribution, which is vital as they’re most affected. They know what they need and are more likely to be better than a decision made without their involvement.

Public participation helps in setting priorities as it informs government the level of importance the citizens attach to a particular situation which helps in channelling of resources (monetary and otherwise). Public participation reduces conflict as working together with diverse people can be difficult, different opinions or diverse interests in decisions can lead to conflict especially at the backdrop of campaign promises.

However, public participation ensures potential areas of disagreement are identified and addressed with concerned people before a decision is made. The fears and interests of such groups are addressed and they become part of the decision-making process. When an agreement is reached the potential for conflict is minimized if not eliminated altogether.

Role of leaders in public participation

What has been provided in the constitution and other secondary legislation; In Article 232 on the Values and principles of public service part (1) include (d) involvement of the people in the process of policy-making (e) accountability for administrative acts (f) Transparency and provision to the public of timely and accurate information.

Leaders should ensure they are accessible and represent citizens, ensure existence of forums and opportunities for citizens. Provide civic education on public participation in simplified formats and the key elements of it like budget making and policy development. Develop effective communication channels with citizens, this includes both online and offline channels as well as mobile and non-mobile channels in all languages understandable to the citizens.

Using those channels to get information out in advance and to a proper depth so participation, decision making is informed and effective. Provide timely and useful information to the citizens on critical and emerging issues. Provide resources to facilitate public participation, on budget making, policy issues, project options etc. Opening channels for public participation goes a long way to ensure that county governments are more responsive to citizens as collaborators and clients hence spur development.

I think as a national value, participation of the people comes with myriad of challenges. Challenges that can be addressed jointly, proper frameworks should be set out to make it more effective. It should be free from predetermined outcomes as often is the case where county officials use citizen forums to rubber stamp their already developed plans. They have to be as inclusive as possible, youth and women should particularly be prioritized. Public participation when properly done enhances shared responsibility in county’s development.

By Samwella Lerno
Writer is a contributor of Siasa Place’s writer’s podium

Kenya’s workers walk to work, MPs pocket best salaries by Nerima Wako

You can also read the original article posted on East African Standard – Kenya’s workers walk to work, MPs pocket best salaries.

After every election year, as surely as the night follows the day, Kenyan Members of Parliament use the House’s opening session to increase their salaries.Taking a closer look at the East African region, Kenya comes first when it comes to MPs’ pay, Uganda second and then Tanzania and Rwanda. There is no doubt that Kenyan legislators are among the best paid in the world.

In 2013, a study conducted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union compared the salaries of different parliaments around the world. It noted that, from 2008, there was a not unexpected decline in these salaries due to the global economic crisis.Given ever-rising populations, governments will have to find ways of saving resources in order to sustain their people.However, common sense is not so common these days. Considering that legislators in Kenya earn more than any other East African country, is this in correlation to our population?

Both Kenya and Uganda have over 400 legislators but are smaller in population size compared with Tanzania. Tanzania has a population of 59 million, Uganda 44 million and Kenya 50 million. In Uganda, the total number of legislators is 432, Kenya has 416 and Tanzania 357.Examining other countries in Africa, the same imbalance emerges. South Africa, which has a population of 57 million and Nigeria with 195 million, have 490 and 469 legislators each. The GDP in South Africa and Nigeria is also higher. Once more, we seem to be overrepresented in our legislature.

Still, the bone of contention is the salaries that we pay MPs. On May 1, 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta made a Labour Day announcement increasing minimum wages by 18 per cent. On Labour Day 2018, President Kenyatta increased the wage again, by five per cent, and complaints were heard to the effect that the previous 18 per cent had not been implemented.What does that mean to the average worker? For instance in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa, Kenya’s three main cities, a worker earning a minimum wage of Ksh12,900 ($129) will earn Ksh620 ($6.20) more. That means that if they travel by matatu for 30 shillings one way, working five days a week, the addition to their salary can pay for transport for two weeks. That is, if you are lucky enough not to work Saturdays.

If your transport is 60 shillings per trip, then you have transport for one week. Thus the increment cannot even support a worker’s transport to their place of work. Mind you, MPs’ basic pay is in the range of Ksh600-700,000 ($6,000-$7,000).
Recently, as I was heading to the office, I took a moment to observe the number of people who walk to work. There is such a large number and it seems to be increasing by the day, because getting to work is so expensive.

Although the minimum wage has been set by the president, thousands of workers still receive pay below that amount, many receive below 50 per cent of the stipulated wage. When it comes to increasing salaries for the average worker, this offer is literally peanuts. Granted, salaries for people who work in public office are not always easy to determine.Although many elected officials claim to need high salaries because of the demands of their voters, the solution is not to increase their salaries to sustain handouts, but to find ways to alleviate poverty so that people are not dependent on handouts.

Many countries have come up with proposals to place caps on the differential between the highest earner and lowest earner so as to keep resources allocated for public wages reasonable.Listening to Members of Parliament talk about the difference between a house loan and a mortgage while they receive sitting allowances, vehicles, medical insurance and other privileges that the taxpayer will have to pay for, it is clear their heads are in the clouds and they are out of touch with what the people they lead actually need.