Although the National Youth Council Act that was legislated in 2009 was meant to ensure effective implementation of the Kenya National Youth Policy 2006 it has fallen quite short of the goal even before its operationalization. When the youth rallied behind the formulation of the Kenya National Youth Policy 2006 and proposed the formation of the National Youth Council it is because they wanted a reliable, independent, responsive and effective institution that could address their concerns most of which have been ignored over years.
They envisaged a National Youth Council that would serve as a lead and negotiating institution for the youth and amplifier of youth issues. They expected a National Youth Council that would ensure improvement of their socio-economic and political conditions through effective representation and participation at various levels.
The Youth Congress an independent youth organization in Kenya whose mission is to provide a platform where the youth consolidate their position to improve their condition and realize their full potential believes that for the National Youth Council to play its role effectively then it should be credible, legitimate, inclusive, independent and sustainable. As it is the National Youth Council Act and its operationalization mechanisms do not afford the youth the proposed and desired National Youth Council. The Youth Congress has reviewed the National Youth Council Act 2009 and the proposed election guidelines and would like to point out some specific concerns.
A. NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL ACT 2009
i. Functions of the National Youth Council
Part II and in particular section 4 on the functions of the Council is largely indicative that the National Youth Council will not have any political power to ensure translation of pertinent policies into desired results. It is portrayed as a body that will only be responsible for promoting awareness and inclusion. In fact, the words used the most in this section are to promote, popularize, facilitate, link, liaise, mobilize, inspire, lobby and such others. One of the principal functions of the National Youth Council should be to ensure effectiveness and responsiveness of all Government and its Agencies on youth and youth issues as espoused in the present constitution.
ii. Composition of the National Youth Council
The independence of the National Youth Council is not afforded in the National Youth Council Act 2009 as far as the composition of the Council is concerned. According to Part II section 5 of the Act, the Council shall be composed of sixteen elected youth representatives including the chairperson, one secretary, four Permanent Secretaries and the Attorney General. The inclusion of Permanent Secretaries and the Attorney General all with voting powers could be problematic as it is likely to supplant the independent participation of the youth.
The argument that we need these Government officials because they work in the Ministries that have direct link to youth issues does not hold. If that is the case then, Kenya National Youth Policy 2006 that provide for the National Youth Council identified priority strategic areas for youth as; Employment (Ministry of Labour), Health (Ministry of Health and Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation), Education (Ministry of Education and Ministry of Higher Education Science and Technology ), Sports and recreation(Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports), Art and culture (Ministries of Youth Affairs and Sport , Ministry of State for National Heritage and Culture ), Environment(Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources), youth empowerment and participation in national life (Ministry of State for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030) and Youth and media(Ministry of Information and Communication). Where is that direct link!
If link is presumed to be the purpose, then unemployment, Environment and Health are major youth concerns. Where are the Permanent Secretaries of these Ministries? There are Quasi Government bodies where the Permanent Secretaries do not constitute their membership and discharge their duties quite effectively e.g. Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. Such models should be used in establishing the National Youth Council to guarantee its independence and autonomy.
iii. Nexus with Ministry of Youth Affairs
The Act is silent on the envisaged relationship between the National Youth Council beyond establishment of the new body. This is matter that should have been stated clearly in the National Youth Council Act to avoid stand offs like what has been witnessed in the past in the Ministry. The National Youth Council should emerge as body that would be responsible for ensuring effectiveness and responsiveness of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports if at all there is still need to have both of them.
iv. Powers of the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports
While one would expect an independent National Youth Council, the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports still wields immense powers that are anchored in the National Youth Council Act. To exemplify, despite the elections of youth council members, the Minister still has the final say. According to section 5 subsection (1) (a) the Minister will be responsible for appointment of the chairperson nominated by the Council. The role of the Minister in this case should be to endorse the candidate elected not nominated by the council. In the first Schedule, section 2 subsection (b) states that a member of the Council can be removed from the office by the Minister. This could give the Minister leeway to victimize dissenting voices in the council and reconstitute the Council without proper procedures as has been witnessed in several occasions in the past.
v. Nexus with Advisory Board
The National Youth Council Act is silent on the envisaged relationship between the National Youth Council and the Board. This is matter that should have been stated clearly in the Act to avoid stand offs like what has been witnessed in the past in the Ministry. There is need to establish clear mechanisms for interactions between The National Youth Council and the Advisory Board.
B. ELECTION GUIDELINES FOR NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL
i) Effective Consultations
There lacks effective consultative mechanisms with the youth both in the formulation of The National Youth Council Act 2009 and the subsequent election guidelines. Where that has happened it has been sporadic, urban based and mostly arise as a result of demand by youth organizations. There hasn’t been a clear plan and strategy to consult the youth in their various clusters on the matter. This could have major implications on the ownership of the documents, process and results.
ii) Civic Awareness
There can be no doubt that the level of awareness on the Kenya National Youth Policy 2006, National Youth Act 2009, Election Guidelines and the concomitant process are painfully dismal. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has not rolled out plans to ensure massive awareness that would somewhat lead to broader participation and ownership by the youth. This is regardless of the fact that the elections were set to commence in February 2011. This can only mean that turn out will be quite low and the resulting National Youth Council will be quite illegitimate.
iii) Independence of the National Election Supervisory Committee
The guideline in bullet 4 proposes the establishment of the National Election Supervisory Committee at the national levels whose among the key function is; to co-ordinate the National Youth Council Election at the national levels and oversee the election at the National Youth Congress and National Delegate Forum. This Committee is constituted of five Permanent Secretary; Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Provincial Administration and Internal Affairs, Finance, Gender, Children and Social Services and the Office of the Prime Minister, the Attorney General, a representative of the Interim Independent Election Commission, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and two representatives nominated by the Minister.
It also provides for election supervisory committee in every sub-Location, Location, Division, Constituency and County. These are constituted by; officer from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development and three persons nominated by faith based organization, non-governmental organization or a youth organization and appointed by the Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports.
Apparently, the composition of the National Election Supervisory Committee is 80% Government. This could jeopardize the autonomy of the elections since there are already concerns on influence and interference by some officials with the intended National Youth Council. Such elections should be steered and coordinated by an independent body that is fairly disinterested in the persons to be elected.
Similarly, bullet six of the guidelines also proposes the establishment of Election Supervisory Committee in every sub-location, location, division, and constituency and county that is accountable to the Minister and not the National Election Supervisory Committee. In so doing the Minister and Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports will be undermining the independence of the already skewed National Election Supervisory Committee.
iv) Affirmative Action
The guidelines does not expressively explain the manner in which the various priority target groups that includes but not limited to; youth with disability, street youth, youth infected with HIV/AIDS, female youth, the unemployed youth and youth out of school will be involved in the process of establishing and operationalizing the National Youth Council. The guidelines have no consideration to youth from historically marginalized communities without clear way for representation. The National Youth Council need to conform to principles and values underlying the National Youth Policy that is; Respect of cultural belief systems and ethical values, Equity and accessibility, Gender inclusiveness, Good governance and Mainstreaming youth issues.
C. THE YOUTH CONGRESS SUBMISSION
The National Youth Council must be credible, legitimate, independent and effective. It’s in this backdrop that we seek the following;
1) Review of the National Youth Council Act 2009.-The Nation Youth Council Act 2009 and the election guideline should be reviewed and youth concerns in- cooperated before the election and subsequent establishment of the National Youth Council. The concerns in the National Youth Council Act includes but not limited to;
- Removal or reduction of the number of Government officials like the Permanent Secretaries and the Attorney General and take away their voting right.
- The National Youth Council Act 2009 should state categorically the relationship between the National Youth Council and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
- Reduce powers of the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports in the National Youth Council
- The National Youth Council Act should state clearly the relationship between the National Youth Council and the Advisory Board.
2) Youth leadership and participation-The process of establishing the National Youth Council must ensure youth leadership and participation and full involvement of key stakeholders of the later.
3) Civic education schedule-There should be civic education on the National Youth Council election prior to the election and other stakeholders incorporated.
4) Election by Interim Independent Election Commission –The national election for the National Youth Council should be conducted by the Interim Independent Election Commission (IIEC) for credibility and transparency.
5) Principles and values underlying the National Youth Policy- The National Youth Council must conform to principles and values that is; Respect of cultural belief systems and ethical values, Equity and accessibility, Gender inclusiveness, Good governance and Mainstreaming youth issues.
As such, The Youth Congress looks forward to offering its support, in whatever form possible, to ensure participation of the young people in the establishment of Independent, inclusive, efficient and effective National Youth Council by the youth, with the youth and for the youth and the subsequent follow up to champion for the implementation of the Kenya National Youth Policy. The Youth Congress is available and open for discussion on the subject matter.
 The National Youth Council Act, 2009 was assented to by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya on the 31st December, 2009 and subsequently published in the official Kenya Gazette on the 6th January, 2010 which is also its effective commencement date.
 Permanent Secretaries in the Ministries of; Youth Affairs and Sports, Finance, Education and Internal Security and Provincial Administration