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
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.