By George Nyongesa
We are infuriated by the fact that President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga used Jamhuri Day celebrations to level allegations of treason against the youth of Kenya. The principals’ outburst, coming hot on the heels of Government spokesman Dr. Alfred Mutua’s similar outlandish claim that the youth are receiving foreign funding to destabilize the coalition government, cannot be ignored, especially by the leadership of youth.
In this regard, we wish to address the President and Prime Minister as follows:
First, we would like to point out that the poignant claims eloquently expose the fears and uneasiness that the political establishment has over the emerging political consciousness among the youth. The language of castigations completely reeks of the status quo’s misguided view of youth as being disorganized, confused and easily manipulated. We refuse this ill-adviced definition of the youth and warn that we are indeed actively organizing to empower ourselves in order to keep on track reforms especially as espoused in Agenda 4 of the same National Accord that brought President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga together in a coalition government.
Second, we are not fazed by allegations of receiving support from wherever in order to realize our agenda. This is not news, as the coalition leaders never ending foreign begging trips are common knowledge. In any event, the youth are part of the wider civil society that likewise survives on primarily international funding for their activities. Also, since the coalition government will not put together empowerment programs that are not designed to control us, manage us or take us hostage, reality check demands that we work with anyone who understands our problem and genuinely wants to help.
Third, we frown upon President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila’s attempt to plant seeds of strife and discord among youth by branding their leadership as foreign-aided coup plotters. Whilst the tag is meant to cow the emerging youth leadership, we want to boldly warn them that Agenda 4 issues, among these, youth unemployment, remain key reform and progress scorecard items for the youth; that if not comprehensively and urgently addressed by the two principal will precipitate the threatening revolution of the dissatisfied masses of youth against the cartel of political elite.
Fourth, we wish to inform President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila that the majority Kenyan youth are quickly realizing that unless Agenda 4 items are addressed, the youth and future generations will remain victims of bad governance that is characterized by corruption, impunity, poverty and tribalism.
We are no longer at ease with the way things are and will not hesitate to latch on constitutional rights to organize to overthrow the political establishment that preys us. We want a better Kenya that is fit for all of us to realize our God given potential. Indeed the youth leadership is going round the neighborhood inspiring fellow Kenyans that with the reality of new constitution, our numbers hold the key to the change we want to see and there is nothing criminal in pursuing constitutional promises.
Fifth, Mr. President and Prime Minister, it is true we are organizing to breed a new leadership that is up to the task of bridging the differences in our society and inspire our social diversities to work together to realize prosperity and peace for all. These are the ideals the youth of our generation dream of and in the back drop of new constitution find it civic obligation and duty. We are organizing because we are dissatisfied with the periodic tokenism such as Kazi kwa Vijana, Youth Enterprise Fund and worse still a youth ministry that has turned out to be a political circus.
Mr. President and Prime Minister, we are organizing because we have come to the realization that anything this political status comes up with has in the final analysis always become another gradualism that cannot address the urgent grave situation of unemployment among youth. We are organizing because we do not want to be used and abused as political levers by political cartels. We are organizing because we are fully aware of the problems the youth face; we are aware of the solutions to those problems and we are sure that we are the leadership we need to get us out of this deep hole.
Sixth, the youth are actively involved in post-referendum civic education on the new constitution especially on the contents of chapter 6. This is because in gearing up for 2012, before the campaign propaganda and empty promises peddled by power hungry politicians clouds their judgment, it is important to empower Kenyans to realize that most of the current crop of leaders cannot stand the leadership and integrity test set by this section of the constitution.
Indeed, the next general election forebodes an overthrow of the political establishment that grossly falls short and that continues to benefit from impunity. Mr. President and Prime Minister, you must accept that Kenyan youth organizing to shake off the yoke of oppression and exploitation through ballot democracy is not a crime and it is an internationally recognized, legitimate and legal avenue for citizenry to realize their own progress.
Seventh, we find it well within our political rights and liberties to want to and accordingly to organize to legally depose an establishment rife with corruption, impunity and tribalism, and replace with one for whom the people’s agenda is central. In doing so, the youth do not act only for ourselves, but millions of Kenyans who are victims of the current bad leadership such as the thousands of internally displaced persons sleeping cold and hungry in filthy camps, thousands of youths seeking solace from joblessness in crime, alcohol, drugs and prostitution, and the millions of Kenyans on self imposed curfews as a result high insecurity in our country.
Eighth, we sympathize with the coalition principals’ embarrassment suffered after the honest and unflattering contents of WikiLeaks, but wish to categorically protest against the Machiavellian use of youth as a political distraction shield of sorts. Casting aspersions against the youth leadership as ploy to steal the public attention from revelations of WikiLeaks is in bad taste, reactionary and totally misguided and betrays how quick the principals are to sacrifice others for their own interests. Accordingly, we dismiss with contempt and term it as a gross insult, the unsolicited paternalistic advisory that had the Premier label Kenyan youth as puppets and we demand a public apology.
In conclusion, we demand that President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila either come up with practical programs to get the youth out of the extreme poverty that makes them vulnerable to political manipulation or keep off our activities of organizing to save ourselves. We reiterate that we are peaceful and patriotic Kenyans engaging in constitution guaranteed civic actions to bring about another Kenya that is fit for all of us. We believe that the youth of Kenya are already giving so much of their own limited resources and sweeping allegations of foreign funding of youth activities is a distraction that we advice our fellow youth not to pay attention to. While we are not oblivious to the fact that the status quo will not resist misuse of state power in deploying old tricks of violence to halt our non-violent and peaceful push for meaningful reforms, we remain determined to deliver the dream and shall not relent.
Mr. Nyongesa is the National Coordinator of Bunge la Mwananchi as well as Co-convenor of the National Youth Forum in Kenya.