Role of The Youth in Active Politics and Responsible Leadership

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One of the greatest post-independent Kenya leaders was Tom Mboya. At only 27 years old he was elected into the Legislative Council which was dominated by other political paragons like Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Daniel Arap Moi. As the representative of the capital city Nairobi, he was very active in facilitating the late 60’s academic airlifts. It was through these airlifts, that Barack Obama Snr found himself in the United States of America. Although he did not live to see it, he produced the first African-American president.

The recent remarks by the president concern the irresponsibility of the youth has been said in bad faith. Most scandals involve experienced politicians who have spurned the cartels for decades.

The terrain of active politics is post-independent Kenya has been defined by few vibrant youth leaders. Some of the current leaders such as William Ruto and Musalia Mudavadi were forged in their youth at the helm of KANU politics. They played critical roles in transitioning the nation in navigating difficult political and economic upheavals.

The struggle for second liberation from the pseudo-dictatorial one-party rule was overturned by the youth. Raila Odinga and other leaders including the then university student leader James Orengo played a pivotal role in ushering the multi-party rule. Many university students were detained because of their presumed and established association with the political dissidents of the day.

The youth in every nation are very important because they form the largest portion of productive population. It is these numbers that make indispensable in political action. However, because of unemployment and disillusionment, a large portion of the youth fall prey to political propaganda and lies that are used by leaders to rob them of opportunities. All political campaigns at any level are run by the youth. Most skirmishes and post-election clashes are also propagated through the youth who are given dismal promises.

The youth form the highest proportion of the unemployed. Although they express optimism about the future only few of them are willing and able to enter active politics. Political campaigns are some of the most expensive ventures in Kenya. In the last election, the lowest elective level in politics, Member of the Country Assembly (MCA), required campaigns that cost tens of millions. Most youth are unable to raise such kind of money. However, an exemplary landmark was set by the MP for Igembe North who managed to get elected by campaigning on foot and with some assistance from well-wishers. That is the audacity of hope.

Nevertheless, in the recent past the number of youthful politician in both houses has increased significantly. Currently, there are many youth MPs and MCAs. There is also a good number of Senators. However, there is no governor who can be identified as youth. This new trend portrays the new confidence that Kenyans have on the youth. This confidence comes with responsibility. A number of youthful politicians get into office with the promise of change and championing the issues of the younger generation only to get swayed once they get into parliament.

The corruption debate has been associated with older politicians. However, the recent remarks by the president concern the irresponsibility of the youth has been said in bad faith. Most scandals involve experienced politicians who have spurned the cartels for decades. Needless to say, some of the youth are sponsored by ‘godfathers’ to further their clinch on public coffers. Once in office, these leaders are required to pay tribute to their benefactors.

Despite all these challenges, the youth have a drastic advantage in contributing to responsible leadership in Kenya. Affirmative action has ensured that they are engaged in governance and business. Political caucuses have been formed to consolidate the youth leaders in order to participate in making essential decision in country. The youth should be sensitized on the importance of their voice and vote when making political decisions. Indifference and apathy must be discouraged because where ignorance is bliss demagogues thrive.

Responsible leadership has two sides to it; the role of the leaders is adhering to legal and ethical expectations and the role of the voters in holding the leaders accountable for their actions. The youth must understand the elected leaders are representatives who need to account for everything they do on their behalf. Although the constitution provides for the recalling of leaders on integrity ground, no citizen impeachment has occurred. The only impeachment attempts witnessed have been marked by allegations of extortion by the MCAs.

Finally, responsible leadership begins at the nomination level. Although, there have been cases of fixing during nomination of leaders, more youth should be sensitized on the importance of participating in active politics to ensure that leaders of integrity are elected into office. The youth have also witnessed first-hand the effects of poor leadership. Sensitization campaigns should be focused on educating the youth on constitutional procedures for holding leaders responsible. They should also be more concerned about the integrity of leaders and their contribution to national posterity. This way the youth will have more say on responsible leadership in the country.