Are Affluent Youth Politically Apathetic?

Posted by on 26th November 2010

Categories:   Citizen Engagement Vox Pop

By Mzalendo Contributor – MOREEN MAJIWA (@mmajiwa)

If you’re like most Kenyans, you are probably still excited about the promulgation of the new constitution, cautiously optimistic about the implementation process and invigorated by the possibility of change in the new dispensation. You follow with interest the ongoing appointments for various independent commissions as well as the fight against graft that seems to have gained a second wind.

Or maybe not, you don’t follow politics, you don’t debate the issues, you didn’t vote at the referendum on the new constitution,  and are generally uninterested in the politics  i.e. you are politically apathetic. This was the description of affluent youth given by the participants at the panel discussion on the new constitution and the youth.

For the rest of this week I made it my mission to find out whether “affluent youth/ members of the emerging middle class” were truly apathetic about politics, why they were, and what it would take to make them take a more active role in politics.   This is what some of them said:

“I vote sometimes, I keep up with politics, but I don’t think voting is the most effective of influencing the government.  Especially since it is relatively cheap for politicians to buy votes. Why should I imagine that my one vote would make a difference? In that sort of situation does my vote really count? Also how many people voted for the constitution and have done nothing since it implementation, just the act of voting doesn’t change anything there has to be more. Voting just gives you the illusion of participating, but I think a better way to influence policy would be arguing ideas, writing, directly engaging with the politicians not just at elections and referendum times but throughout constantly challenging the philosophy of the system, and not ticking name or a yes or
no box every five years.”

I’ve voted at the previous referendum and in all the elections since I turned 18. I vote because it’s my civic duty to vote, but I don’t really follow politics. I know that politics affects me just look at what happened in 2007, there are still IDP’s, look at the state of the roads. But seriously politics isn’t interesting, politicians don’t always tell the truth, the promises they make are not binding, they don’t keep them. With the state of politics I just don’t think it would be worth me spending a large portion of my time immersed
in it.

I don’t vote, my relationship with the government starts and ends with me paying my taxes, and I feel like even that is daylight robbery. The government hasn’t helped me in anyway, I pay all my taxes on time, yet I can’t see where the tax money going – its
not going on roads, it does not seem to be going to the poor, by way of hospitals or better housing, so where is it going? If I vote I feel like I agreeing to being robbed after all I’ll have voted them into power. What would it take to get me to vote, I would vote
if there were true accountability, not this half baked fight against corruption – in th UK an MP had to resign because he used his allowance to buy personal furniture we should have something similar. I would also vote if I could see that my vote counted and I could find out exactly how my tax money is spent.

I find myself still scratching my head alleged disinterest in politics at the end of these interviews. The affluent youth are obviously up-to-date on the political and governance issues that the country faces. Their replies showed that they have diverse opinions and
are not completely apathetic, but rather, rather simply disillusioned to the point of not wanting to participate, the majority felt that, politicians didn’t have an automatic right
their attention – they have had to earn it.


  • by mmnjug on 26th November 2010

    At least the affluent youth have an idea they can change things, though in their own way. Am in Malindi and I can assure you one thing, the youth here bring a new meaning to apathy, disilllusioned and lost. Its such a pain that the mentality of 'serikali itusaidie' is very strong here. Am a very worried man, especially since the youth are disinterested in the local happenings and that they are leaving this County thing to their old leaders, of whom they are always complaining about.

  • by romaj1gig on 26th November 2010

    The thing about affluence is that in their minds it seperates them from the 'need' to vote. The above quotes are easy to relate to, in that the people can get the little things they personally need without haveing to rely on their MP. They want things fromt eh govenrment as a whole, but when you rely on yoru MP to improve schooling so just one of your 6 children can go to school your vote is much closer to your heart than one may think.

  • by Kevin on 30th November 2010

    The youth are generally quite apathetic towards politics. However, there are the youth that do think of themselves as participants within our political system, though it is a slight percentage of the overall position. The rise of the middle class and the maturity of the youth ushers in a period of great importance towards our politics. As literacy levels rise and independent thinking grows, the youth make more decisive decisions more independently on whom to vote for and why they are voting. The attitude that politics does not influence our daily lives is slowly changing, especially after the Post-Election Violence. With time there will be a greater percentage of the population that takes a keener interest in politics. The youth just need the urge to take up the leadership, and that will be the turning stone for fundamental change of minds and ideological thought.

  • by toya on 13th February 2011

    In Kilifi,the youth don't exist because the system is not well defined. politically, whoever brings money, will have his/her opinions supported to the extent of his/her cash. The bigger the load, the longer and wide spread the support.