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.

For comments and enquiries:
Contact – philipmisori@gmail.com