Kenya Coalition Principals Grossly Misguided about Kenyan Youth

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.

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Press Release: Garissa County Youth Response to Dr. Alfred Mutua’s Comments on The American Aid To Kenyan Youths

This is a rare opportunity for young people to deliberate, shape and chart their destiny.

It is a departure from the past when youth were regarded as a recipient or worse still trouble makers. We shared our problems with people who not only didn’t care but also refused to listen to our voices and concerns.

The US government involvement, as driving force, was to address urgent need for youth participation in the socioeconomic, cultural and political agenda of the country. The youth fund given by USAID aims to serve the youth in the informal settlements, rural areas, small cities, pastoralist communities and towns and rural areas who bear the brunt of exclusion, deprivation, intimidation, violence, human rights violations and underdevelopment as a result of inequalities, political misgivings, intolerance, and limited access to opportunities by the youth, disregard of human rights and unaccountable system of governance by the government that is ironically concerned that we are now being empowered by external forces.

The approach by USAID is through active involvement and development of youth leadership on issues that affect them. It also endeavours to promote leadership that upholds youth interest, diversity, equality and non discrimination, information sharing, generation of knowledge and skill enhancement, partnership to strengthen youth unity, connectivity and collective action among youth are among the key approaches used by the USAID to address the youth problem.

Youth unemployment and underemployment are in our opinion Kenya’s most serious problem that continues to cause even more problems. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports should hit the road running on the issue and look to have viable inclusive policies as we speak now!

There have been numerous attempts by successive government to address issues of concern to the youth. The latest attempt is the Kazi Kwa Vijana program. The Kazi Kwa Vijana with its national scope was the most unsuccessful event undertaken by the government for the youth. The involvement of youths has been very minimal and youths all over Kenya have a common saying that KKV was (“kazi kwa vijana pesa kwa wazee”).

We call upon the authorities to consider change of strategy and opt for consultation and engagement. Force, threats and intimidation have failed to deal with the problems effecting the youth. Political parties have manifestos to outline their agendas for the country. These documents that are intended to guide the electorate on the best leadership and governance they will require. They lay out and issues in these documents are designed to entice and persuade the voters though implementations of the issues are debatable.

Kenyan youths have contributed a great deal to coexistence among the various communities and races. The young people contribution to sustainable peace must be enhanced. There are records of youth organizing and using their talents to communicate peace through songs and to engagement with the leaders and other community members.

The exchange program initiated by USAID among the young people from various communities and background is necessary and viable. These are learning opportunities and help young people appreciate diversity and thus deal with stereotypes, rumours and myths spoken about particular group of people that has created tension in the past. If it’s true that young Kenyans participated in the post election violence then they are also key instrument to create and preach peace through various initiative and various mode of communication.

A wide range of governmental policies and public sector programmes have particularly failed to address problems that affect the Kenyan youth. However, the youth of Kenya have refused to die!

We continue to mobilize community action, to build a community force and to claim and enjoy our God given rights, human dignity and we are in constant search of our freedom. The young people continue to work strenuously to affirm their status as permanent citizens of Kenya and the world at large. We continue to demand recognition and participation in decisions that affect our lives. We believe that we deserve better services and dignified livelihoods.

We have realized that we have a fundamental role to play in seeking credible solutions to our problems. We believe that we have the power to seek solutions to our problems. We have taken the front seat because we are the survivors, we are the ones who suffer, we are the ones who wear the shoes and know exactly where it hurts. We are committed to give birth to a new community, a new nation and new world where all humanity will rejoice and be proud, we believe this has happened with the new constitution.

The youth are organizing for real change and we are saying don’t just watch the space we also invite you to join the space! We won’t just shout we will also act!   We condemn Dr. Alfred Mutua’s remarks on the US embassy as a direct insult to the youth and utter disrespect for people who are helping in building your own home; he should instead thank the American government for being good friends of Kenya and not condemn them.

We want to thank Hon. Micheal Rannerberger (US Ambassador) for the good work he is doing with the Kenyan youth. Let President Obama know that we appreciate his encouragement and goodwill to help the youth of Kenya.

Thank you.

Unsung Heroes of This Nation

By Larry Asego

Asked who their hero is, a certain class 4 child said superman, another said Spiderman and yet another said ironman. Every day I meet people I consider heroes and yet nobody bothers to introduce these people to our kids. This country needs to shift focus on who we call heroes. We are in urgent need of heroes for our kids to emulate. The only issue is that the heroes are there, but we have refused to see.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of meeting such heroes who were more of celebrating than mourning the life of one of the greatest women this country will ever have.

At the age of 92, Mama Esther Nduta Kore passed on and she is to lie to rest on this Wednesday morning at her home in banana. This might sound like just another name to most of us but it shouldn’t. She is one of the country’s unsung heroes of our time and it will take a long time before we find another as humble and as patriotic as her.

Mama Nduta, as she is so fondly referred to by those close to her, was among those who one night in 1952 said, “tomorrow we go to war against the mzungu.” Being part of the mau mau war council, she was in the storm centre of the revolution that ensured we got independence. She played a key role in the revolution. She played a central role in the acquisition of arms and dissemination of information as well as inducting followers to the course. She was involved in inducting the likes of Dedan Kimathi and Stanley Mathenge who both took  the mau mau oath in her hut.  Kimathi and Mathenge were also given their first pistols in that same hut.  This is a woman who was involved in a high speed car chase after they successfully purchased arms near the current Jamhuri race course. How many of us knew that.

According to Gitu Wa Kahengeri, the chairman of the mau mau veterans association, “the role of women was equal to that of men. She and other women were right up there with us in the forest, fighting, cooking for men, carrying guns for us. So when people say women should get a third of the seats in power, they don’t know what they are talking about, women should get 50% of seats because they did half the work.”

Mama Nduta led from the front as a pioneer member of the Kikuyu Central Association and after this was banned by the colonialists, she later on, together with James Gichuru and others, set up KAU.

For her troubles Mama Nduta was arrested and detained together with her husband, who also deserves recognition for the work he did for this country. In fact so feared was Mr. Kore by the white man that he was detained in the then remote Manda Island with other top mau mau leaders.  He unfortunately died soon after he was released – paying the ultimate price for our freedom.

Sharing a prison cell with Mama Ngina Kenyatta, she kept her spirits up and continued to fight for freedom. She was detained in Kamiti prison then later moved to Hola and was there during the infamous Hola massacre and was to later show Kenyatta where the victims were buried. She was condemned to hang but only survived after the UK ordered that women should not be executed. All this didn’t dampen her spirit and she continued fighting for this country. She went ahead to be elected KANU chairperson of Kiambu; the days when KANU was the party representing freedom from the white man. She was nominated councilor of Kiambaa County council and she served in this position for 10 years, always in the fore front of development projects; water, health, bursary funds, land settlement. Together with the likes of Jane Kiano, they set up the Maendeleo ya wanawake movement and represented Kenyan women in Beijing.

Cucu, as all the kids in her home area call her, was heavily involved in the demarcation of our country’s borders travelling to all corners of the country and earning the respect and recognition of both President Kenyatta and President Moi.

She loved kids; anybody at her door step was never turned away. Her humble home has hosted from the very poor and destitute to the high and mighty in society. She never demanded attention or gains for all she did for this country, but hers was a life of selflessness

“She’s a true Shujaa. It’s because of her that we are here” says the Chairperson of the Mau mau association Gitu Wa Kahengeri who is scheduled to present the mau mau case in the UK on the 10th January  2011.

Gitu Wa Kahengeri, speaking on behalf of all the veterans present, says that contrary to popular belief the mau mau was not just a Kikuyu movement. Every single Kenyan shared the same fate and grief and had their own “mau mau” movement where they were; Mekatilili, Koitalel just to mention a few. “Among the 11 who died in Hola, was a Turkana and maasai freedom fighter. “Mama Nduta didn’t fight for the Kikuyus, she fought for Kenya.”

Mr. Wamuti, who was also detained in Manda Island says that Mama Nduta has done so much that if we were to say it all it would take a week to recount, but all we ask as veterans is that the story be told for the benefit of our children and their children. What we enjoy today is greatly thanks to people like Mama Esther Nduta Kore and all the veterans who have been ignored for so long. Even if we don’t get the recognition, then let our kids hear the story so that they don’t forget where they have come from.

“If the likes of Mama Nduta hadn’t decided to go to war on that morning of 1952, then who knows, maybe the white man would still be walking on us like tarmac on the roads. From Namanga to Moyale, from Indian Ocean to Busia, we opted to die for you and it’s a pity that everybody is narrowing it down to a kikuyu outfit,” says Kahengeri.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mama Nduta a few months ago before she passed on and one thing that I remember to date is her saying, “we gave you this country in one piece, what will you do with it?” I’ve never before felt so challenged and without response like I felt that day.

During public celebrations you will spot the veterans wearing their medals given a back seat while politicians whose contribution to this nation is empty talk. Never once have I seen Mama Nduta been invited to the podium for Kenyans to celebrate her, but in her own words, “let our children not forget.”

So the next time you spot an old man bent over a cane, walking in the streets proudly displaying medals on his coat and eager to share his experiences, know that if it wasn’t for such people then it would have been up to us, and if you look around you, do you honestly believe that the person next to you would be up to the task?

This time around, I hope we will all start celebrating the great works our heroes have done. I would personally like to say “Thank you,” to Mama Esther Nduta Kore for what she has done for me, for this country and for Kenyans. I challenge you to do the same.

May the Almighty God rest her soul in peace.

In the New Kenya, justice must be seen to be swift

Today’s daily nation has a picture on the back page which may without the noticeable features of a worried Kamlesh Pattni cause the reader to turn the page.

The picture captioned “In the dock: Sh 5.8 billion Goldenberg case mentioned” has Pattni who has remorphed from tycoon to evangelist accompanied by others, many youth may not know. However, in the early 1990s when the albatross of Goldenberg which swindled Kenya’s national reserves, the three men accompanying Brother Paul Pattni in the dock were senior officials in the Central Bank and Treasury.

However today’s picture captures old men. The question is when will Goldenberg be put to an end? How in the New Kenya can the youth have faith in a system where cases take almost twenty years to be settled?

Call for applications – Training program on the Equal Status & Human Rights of Women in East Africa

Africa Youth Trust, in partnership with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute invites applications for the third Training Program on The Equal Status and Human Rights of Women in East Africa (EAHUWO).

The program is jointly being undertaken by Africa Youth Trust (Kenya) and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (Sweden) with sponsorship from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Program Objective

The program aims at strengthening the human rights of women in the Eastern Africa region, by promoting awareness of applicable international human rights standards among advocates, government officials and academicians working on gender equality issues. The program seeks to undertake a training that will target sustainable development by building the capacity of participating organizations to advance policies and implement actions on women human rights.

Course Content:

During the two-week training, particular attention will be placed on regional mechanisms for the protection of women rights as human rights, and the role of women in national peace-building and democratic governance.

The approach of the training is interdisciplinary and involves aspects of law and social sciences. The program will provide an opportunity for participants to exchange experiences and ideas from their national context, while offering a forum for discussions from a regional perspective.

Target countries: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Applications from candidates from other countries other than those mentioned above will not be considered, due to budgetary limitation.

Target audience:

The training is open to representatives from government agencies and civil society organizations, both men and women, preferably in middle to senior level management, with the proven ability (or demonstrated potential) to design and influence the policy-making and national reform processes on issues of human rights of women. It is mandatory for applicants to be nominated by their institutions/ organizations.

Dates of Training: May 3– 14, 2010

Venue: Naivasha, Kenya.

For application details see attached or visit www.africayouthtrust.org/eahuwo or www.rwi.lu.se or send an email to the Program Administrator on eahuwo@africayouthtrust.org

Closing date for applications is April 12, 2010.

Umuro Wario’s reinstatement at Kenya’s Youth Fund is a victory for public officers committed to fighting corruption

graft buster montageThe government’s decision to reinstate Mr. Umuro Wario to continue serving as the Chief Executive Officer of the Youth Enterprise Development Fund should be highly lauded. It’s a point of victory for public officers who risk their jobs by committing themselves to fight corruption.

Kenya’s biggest problem with the war against corruption has always been having the corrupt have their day whenever they fight back. This has happened to so many competent people before. A number of committed and hardworking officers have often lost their jobs whenever they showed determination to fight graft. A few years back it was confirmed that in Kenya, corruption fights back. It happened to Goldenberg whistle blower David Munyakei who lost his job and died in agony after he revealed how Kenyans had lost billions of shillings through the Goldenberg scandal. The same nature of machinations worked so hard to remove true anti corruption crusaders from transparency international. It was such kind of behind the scene political games by some board members that two very competent CEO’s Mwalimu Mati and Gladwell Otieno were consecutively removed from TI Kenya. Transparency International is just one example among many where officers committed to sincerity end up losing their jobs because of the greed and immorality of some of the board members of those institutions.

The minister in charge must be lauded for taking a bold action and making the truth carry its day by re appointing Mr. Wario. The  minister has shown that if we all work for the truth, the just will always get justice too.

The initial sacking of Mr. Wario was like condemning those who fight corruption within the institutions where they work. This is because the ground of dismissal was based on the fact that he didn’t cooperate in the approval of some questionable deals pushed by the board. He must be lauded for standing strong in the interest of Kenyan youth when he refused to approve a ‘loan’ of ksh.300million to a Canadian NGO. Its noticeable that some politically connected board members wanted to use their political influence to blackmail the CEO into approving projects that mattered to their own selfish interests and not in the interest of the Kenyan youth.

It’s important that the minister was able to rescind her own earlier move of sacking the YEDF CEO after finding out the truth.

As the minister appoints new board members it’s important to ensure that new faces are put on the board to make the YEDF operate without any external coercion from various political interests as it has been before. The minister should now move to ensure that the board is fully reconstituted to include people who will work in the interest of the Kenyan youth and not those who will end up arm-twisting the CEO to give’ loans’ to foreign NGOs. A new board I believe will come up with a new way of implementing the youth projects and also oversee the funding of the youth groups by merit and not through political manipulations.

Wario is one of the competent young people who are emerging   in providing leadership in different sectors of our economy and it’s wrong for individuals to use tribalism or any other form of bigotry to sabotage such talents. He is also is famed for having rolled out the audit of the Kenya’s free primary education when he worked for the ministry of education.

I really wish that other ministers and government officials emulate the youth and sports minister Prof. Hellen Sambili and stand and support the truth always whenever circumstances of this nature arise. Through this, we shall achieve a lot in our war against nepotism and all other forms of corruption. It must be fought from all corners and sacking public officers who help fight it is not one of the methods of ridding our society of graft.

FWAMBA NC FWAMBA

Jipe moyo wewe Kijana! (don’t give up!) – Kenya’s government has no intention of empowering you!

KKVToday the youth in Nairobi converged on Charter Hall to celebrate International Youth Day. The purpose of this auspicious day (which will be officially celebrated tomorrow in the rest of the world) is to draw attention to social, economic, legal and political issues facing the youth.

The Nairobi Forum had as its theme “Harnessing Responsive Youth Development Initiatives for a Sustainable Kenyan Economy”, an issue which is at the heart of Agenda 4 of Kenya’s National Accord Agreement that established the current coalition government.

Regarding the youth, Agenda 4 has far reaching measures which are meant to include all Kenyans and indeed the youth who form over 75% of Kenya’s population into democratic processes and development.

Constitutional reforms are anticipated to include clauses that ensure equal opportunities and social inclusion for all Kenyans. Institutional reforms in the judiciary and police have been incorporated to ensure strong commitment to human rights, in a country where Kenyan youth are particularly vulnerable to such abuses, with the majority of inmates in the prison system being youth and a  police force that has also been accused of targeting the youth for extra judicial killings.

Further Agenda 4 reforms are also supposed to be implemented within the civil service, the same sector which in March this year raised the retirement age of civil servants up five years to 60! Land reforms are also a crucial Agenda 4 issue as land ownership amongst the nation’s youth is remaining a novelty.

However, these reforms cannot compare with the real poverty faced by Kenya’s youth. The youth require jobs and opportunities to fully exploit their talents. And Agenda 4 emphasises policies that ensure equity and balance  in terms of job creation and improved income distribution.

Thus, the main agenda in this afternoon’s Charter Hall forum centered on the Youth Enterprise Development Fund as well as the more recent Kazi kwa Vijana (KKV) programme.

After opening performances from Sauti Sol who can only be described as Kenya’s Boyz II Men, Hope Raisers a band from Korogocho inspired the title of this post “Jipe moyo wewe Kijana!” with their session that encouraged the audience not to give up in the face of poverty. It was ironic that above the stage were both the emblem of the Nairobi City Council which in the past has been guilty of not providing adequate social services as well as the seemingly benign face of President Kibaki, the very same principal who is meant to deliver Agenda 4 to Kenyans.

The forum was moderated by Louis Otieno of Citizen TV and began with a talk from Patrick Kasyula, the head of research at the Youth Enterprise Development Fund. In his speech, he extolled the virtues of the fund, more or less placing the blame for not reaching as many young entrepreneurs as could have been on parliament. He went on to say that the fund had to put internal structures and requirements such as funding youth groups as opposed to individuals so that the Kenya National Audit Office (KNAO) could not say they were spending money flagrantly.

Kasyula further mentioned that the fund was committed to responding to issues. As such the first question was raised by Fiona Mati of the Youth Interactive Portal for Enterprise (Yipe.org) regarding the over Kshs. 1 billion in financial discrepancies outlined in the Partnership for Change report “A fish rots from the head down: crony capitalism at Kenya’s Youth Enterprise Development Fund” whose basis was a financial management letter addressed to the then CEO of the Youth Fund, Umuro Wario from the very same Kenya National Audit Office (KNAO) Mr. Kasyula had earlier mentioned.

In response, Mr. Kasyula termed the “report” as being false and malicious. He went onto assert that those errors emanated from the fund’s parent ministry of Youth & Sports to whom the startup monies for the youth fund was given in grants. As a result of that “report” Kasyula continued, the CEO was terminated.  Mr. Kasyula never made any response to other questions from Ms. Mati regarding single sourcing by the Fund of suppliers and contractors, and neither did he answer her question on the Youth Fund’s “partnership” with Enablis East Africa.  However, he did provide a standard response from the fund that it is the only State Corporation that presents quarterly reports to Parliament and is one of the most transparent government agencies. Yet if this is the case, why the hesitancy in answering a few straightforward questions if the Fund is as transparent as its officers profess it to be?

Mr. Kasyula was further prodded by another audience member, Emmanuel Dennis the convenor of the National Youth Convention regarding his assertion that the “report” by the Kenya National Audit Office was both “false and malicious”. Mr. Dennis asked how Kasyula a civil servant could say the Auditor General’s office could make such “false and malicious” assertions– the very same office that draws its mandate from The Constitution of Kenya!

Dennis further reminded the audience of further financial issues raised in the KNAO financial management letter including a Kshs. 50 million grant to the youth fund by the Kenya Pipeline Organisation, for which no agreement was supplied at the time of the KNAO’s audit of the fund; Kshs. 500 million put into a fixed deposit account without Treasury approval and monies paid out for events to an organization for whom no legal registration documents were made available to the KNAO.

At this point, Kasyula directed any interested questioners to find out more from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, whom the forum’s moderator Louis Otieno reminded everyone present was new in his job. But Kasyula maintained that a visit to the parent ministry would yield answers, albeit the same answers the Partnership for Change has been seeking since June 27th 2009!

At the beginning of the Forum, Louis Otieno had asked the audience how many had received money from the youth kitty and only a smattering raised their hands. Indeed there were more audience members who raised their hands when asked who had applied and been rejected.

Two of these from one youth group in Embakasi narrated their story. They said that even though the concept of a youth fund was good in the boardroom, its implementation was far from realistic on the ground. They had tried to apply twice and never received even an email rejecting their application. One of them, Njambi said that rejection communication would not quench her thirst for entrepreneurship, but could only improve the development of her group’s business proposal. Njambi added that even a short note saying that the handwriting on her group’s proposal was bad would have been preferable to no response at all.

The second entrepreneur Lydia said that on one of their applications they approached the Fund and were told there was no money and that they should return after the national budget was read as all the money had been returned until then to the Treasury! She further cited the major hurdles imposed by the fund’s application process saying that her group had a hard time even finding a youth officer. That is not surprising because the youth officer they eventually found in Embakasi was in her words a “Mzee” (an old man) who told the group that what they were requesting was not within his mandate and even called the administration police to send them back to where they came from. Kasyula responded to this by admitting that the Fund does not itself employ youth officers who commonly are “senior” civil servants seconded to such duties by the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.

The question of what impact the fund has made was raised by other audience members who said the youth in the “hood(s)” of Nairobi do not know about banks and “big money” and asked the fund to make its presence known on the ground. A member of a youth performing group added that road-shows would be a good starting point so the youth can leave the ghetto and reach the leafy suburbs of Lavington.

The second issue under discussion at the forum was jobs, specifically those under the controversial Kazi kwa Vijana (KKV) programme. A representative from the KKV National Management Committee Mr. Adak said that the initiative was aimed at assisting those youth most “at risk“. In his introduction he outlined the structure of the programme and stressed that the initiative had been successful, employing 100,000 youth so far.

Expenditure is Expe! (expensive)

An audience member from Mathare later told Mr. Adak that the amount of 250 shillings per day  was too little to feed him and his family. He also asked whether the initiative was just a 2012 campaign gimmick. In response, Adak told the young man that we should “praise God” for 250 shillings! – further revealing the insensitivity of government policy makers and political elite to the plight of the nation’s youth.

That response confirmed that Kenya’s government policy is solely populist and not geared to any sustainable development as far as youth policy and mainstreaming is concerned. That the government through KKV has employed 100,000 youth and intends by the end of September 2009 (next month) to make this figure 300,000 (how they get this figure and how they intend to achieve 300% growth is anyone’s guess) shows that Agenda 4 is on the back-burner as far as Kenya’s youth are concerned. World development has shown that as the noted economist and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen says, development is not just about numbers but how the quality of life of a nation’s population is being improved. Obviously Kenya’s development economists and policy makers remain unaware of this.

To further show that the KKV programme is solely intended to give Kshs. 2,500 to as many youth as it can, the project is set up so that an “at risk” youth gets temporary employment for a maximum of 10 days. The means test to assess those “at risk” was questioned as well as the use of the provincial administration in implementation. Audience members testified that local chiefs were using the KKV as a means to solidify their influence in communities with no scrutiny. Negative ethnicity was also cited when a participant called Bill from Kiamaiko in Huruma told the forum that only youth from one community were being employed in his area. Another, George from Mathare said that the KKV supervisors looked 75 years old! He also told the forum that there were cases of supervisors demanding a cut of the earnings.

Payment was also an issue. Under the programme, the youth are paid two weeks AFTER the job and several cases were raised in the forum regarding delayed payment even after that time period. However, Adak of the KKV said that some youth had been involved in monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the exercise to avert such incidents and even narrated an instance of M&E youth entering government offices questioning why they were unmanned. Though this sounds like empowering youth, the tale evoked memories of the dreaded Kanu youth wingers of the Moi regime who in their red-shirts terrorized everyone including civil servants.

As for the KKVs national steering committee and its offshoots, queries were raised by youth group members in the audience as to who actually appoints these committee members? A youth leader echoed the campaign gimmick question asking why the programme was under the Prime Minister’s office and not the Ministry of Youth Affairs? He reiterated that the initiative was being used as a cash cow for the provincial administration where bribes to be employed on the programme went as high as Kshs. 2,000 – leave alone that the total take home amount should be Kshs. 2,500!  The potential for corruption in this Kshs. 15 billion project was cited as being too high particularly where no checks and balances have been instituted. Adak, the KKV representative could only respond that the committees were manned by civil servants from roads, forestry, solid waste collection and other labour intensive government departments.

Siku njema ina kuja (A better day is coming)

But the ray of hope came from the recommendations of an earlier morning session where the forum was informed that a report will be presented to the government regarding the youth fund with the following demands:

  • An acknowledgment that the youth enterprise development fund is not structured in such a way as to eradicate poverty. The beneficiary criteria has not been well thought out and enables those who can access loans elsewhere to benefit to the exclusion of those that really need it.
  • The fund should not be so stringent in its loan disbursement: small quick turnaround loans should be included.
  • Devolvement of disbursement from commercial banks should be immediate and grassroot structures that are more accessible to Kenya’s youth should be promoted.

As for the Kazi Kwa Vijana, this policy was only slated to last until September 2009. However, the youth are growing more restless by the day. The only solution to avert a youth revolution is a full and committed implementation of Agenda 4.