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Young people, arise and make your vote count

Posted by on 18th October 2021

Categories: Uncategorised

The most recent numbers released by IEBC on voter registration are disheartening, though expected due to the existing anger against the political class. The numbers showed nothing less than a protest manifested in the form of apathy. Although this style of protesting should be discouraged because it weakens democracy rather than enriching it.

It is a discernible fact that the majority of the targeted voters are young people who will be voting for the first time, but they are just not showing up. An SMS poll we conducted in 26 counties across the country shows that only 49.3% of our users are registered and will be voting in next year’s polls. 47.9% of them said they would not be voting next year and 2.8% were unsure about it citing a number of reasons This has begged quite a number of questions. What could be the reason for not showing up? Is it a case of giving up with the system? Is it ignorance? Or is it that the youth are just not bothered ?

In an ideal situation you would have imagined an excited population of youth coming out to register, since this is the only opportunity for them to be handed power to vote in leaders that resonate with their needs and aspirations. In a democracy like Kenya, it is only through the vote that the youth can exercise their power to fire incompetent leaders and hire leaders that they want.

Youth in Kenya for a long time have experienced the burdens of poor governance. This segment of the population makes up the majority of unemployed Kenyans, dependants and those living in poverty. According to the 2019 Kenya population census, 75% of the 47.6 million population is under the age of 35. Those aged between 18-34 years old, account for 29% of the population, with the number having increased since 2019. This demographic is so huge, so significant and yet so marginalized . It is a status that is so paradoxical, a group of people so powerful and yet so weak in reality.

Every five years, the youth currency increases in value, with the political class renewing their abusive relationship with this segment of voters. A quite disrespectful relationship of use and dump. Young people have started to be recruited as political bloggers and propagandists to spew hate against opponents. Recruited into outfits such as youth leagues that have a shorter life span than that of a mayfly. We may pause and ask. Young people need to revaluate this relationship that diminishes their value once the elections are concluded. Are they okay with this short-term kind of a relationship? Are they satisfied with the mediocrity dramatized by most politicians? We hope not.

Youth need to discover the power of the vote, by registering within time and voting right. The vote is like a five-years voucher or even investment. It ought to be taken with the seriousness that it deserves. With the vote, young people, like all Kenyans, can redeem a good education system, an inclusive and sustainable education loans regime, a nationally structured mentorship and internship program, employment opportunities and an enabling environment for ideas and innovations. The current mass voter registration is a good place to start reinventing the youth constituency, however much fragmented it is. Our uniform problems and almost similar interests for the future need to bring us together. There are places where the youth have done it – save the future of their country. Zambia experienced the largest voter turnout in the last election. Young people came out to vote like they have never done before, and finally their voice was heard.

It would be encouraging to see a similar interest in politics among the youth replicated in Kenya. Not the kind of interest of cheering their tribesman to win a presidential election or bashing other candidates because they come from other tribes. Not an interest of just registering and voting irrationally but an interest in demanding transparency and accountability in governance and all political processes.

The current enhanced mass voter registration exercise provides an opportune time for those who have not registered to do do. There is still a window of two weeks, remaining for you to make a change for your future. Make your voice be heard, won’t you?

Why IEBC may get it wrong again.

Posted by on 13th October 2021

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Most of us will agree that it is hard to be an IEBC commissioner. This is one institution that is supposed to be active throughout the election cycle but suddenly pops up during the election year. Due to its past, every one of us may hold a grudge against the institution but truth be said, IEBC is more often than not a victim of circumstances.

As much as the institution is designed to be independent, in many ways politicians have managed to enslave it. IEBC operates by the whims of politicians who are determined to erase the “I’’ in IEBC. Knowingly or unknowingly, the many blunders that IEBC commits during an election are blunders instigated by politicians. The few elections that the electoral body has conducted, it always comes in a rush and unprepared thereby denting its image. Take for instance, in the last election the reason for the nullification of the presidential election was majorly based on transmission of election results. This would have been remedied if IEBC had conducted a mock election to test internet strength in areas where they had doubts.

Kenya has had a history of sham elections. To avert this litany of electoral malpractices such as those of the historical 2007 general elections, Justice Krigler in his report recommended application of technology in subsequent Kenya’s elections. In his thinking, technology would have lowered the possibility of tampering with election results or decrease the risk of rigging. What we did not anticipate is, technology operated by unethical personnel is still useless. The 2013 and 2017 elections are a good example, in many ways technology was made not to work and the electoral body had no choice but to revert to the manual way of doing this. These are some of the actions that were declared illegal in the 2017 presidential election petition.

Less than one year to the general election. The electoral body through its chairman is complaining that the Communication Authority hasn’t installed a 3G network in all the polling stations. This is risky! Lack of proper internet in all polling stations renders the entire election technology useless. Far much worse, the election may be termed illegal because without the internet, manual transmission may be the only way. If the government was committed to a proper free and fair election, installation of the infrastructure that will enable internet penetration in all polling stations would have been a priority in the last four years. Since that was not the case expect the same old grievances during the 2022 general elections.

The treasury has also been another frustrating agent in the preparation for elections. As much as our election is a weirdly expensive affair. By now we should have accepted this reality in budgeting. In any case, it’s our high level of mistrust that has made this happen. In other jurisdictions elections are conducted by civil servants and even volunteers. Would you imagine that in Kenya? Because of our high affinity to dishonesty, we shall have to pay a fortune. This is to meet the cost of a very expensive electoral body, thousands of election officials and finally election technologies. Truly, our elections are unnecessarily expensive because of our unique dynamics and that’s why the Treasury ought to have planned better. It is scary now to have the chairman complaining for lack of funds because this will ultimately have an impact on the credibility of the election. It is not wise to have a scenario whereby election materials are being procured hurriedly at the last minute.

Surprisingly, politicians in Parliament who are expected to have a primary interest in a free and fair election are the number one sluggish in creating an enabling environment for the electoral body. The August house has disappointed the IEBC by not passing electoral laws. Some of the laws still lying in parliament are The Referendum Bill 2020, The IEBC (Amendment) Bill 2020 and The Electoral Campaign Finance (amendment) Bill 2020 among others.  Some of these laws may also touch on the suitability of the current crop of politicians in running for an election and hence the delay.

Finally, the chaos that we experience in all election years is shameful and costly. It is expected that by now we have learnt and applied the lessons of our past in running a credible election, unfortunately this is not the case. This consistent unpreparedness ought to be called by people who care, as soon as possible. We cannot afford instability in 2022, we have been there and I am sure no one liked it.


Opinion piece by Gitungo Wamere.

Youth, enlist as voters to make your voice heard

Posted by on 4th October 2021

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The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on Monday kicked off a 30-day voter registration exercise in preparation for next year’s general elections. The electoral agency urged Kenyans to avail themselves and get registered as IEBC targets to enlist over 6 million new voters, majority of whom are expected to be youth aged between 18 to 23 years old. The importance of the participation of this segment of the population in the 2022 polls cannot be overemphasized.

While youth take up the largest portion of the population, according to the 2019 census, they remain grossly underrepresented in the decision-making process. Thus the term, marginalized majority. In the current Parliament, only 32 out of the 416 members are aged thirty-five years and below, yet the youth formed the biggest voting bloc in the last elections. This disparity cannot be solved solely through nomination by political parties. It requires active involvement of young people in the political process including the party primaries and the ballot election. Being enlisted as a voter is a crucial first step in enabling one to stand up and be counted. Whether it’s through fronting themselves as a candidate or rallying behind a fellow youth. It gives power to their voices and interests.

Voting elevates the involvement of young people in the political process by providing a democratic and non-violent way to effect change. Granted, there is the legitimate fear of pre-determined results, but the voice of the people cannot be disputed when it’s loud and clear and supported by the majority. Previous elections have seen youth being exploited to intimidate opponents through chaos just for a fleeting small amount of money. It’s about time to change that narrative. Youth are not just a means to an end; youth are a key component in arriving at an end that strongly supports and gives solutions to their interests.

It is during this season that the IEBC needs to go beyond just enlisting voters but also sensitizing them on the electoral process as is required of them by the Constitution. Voting needs to come from an informed position. Tribal politics have dominated the electioneering period bastardizing the process. Young people need to change tact and scrutinize each of the candidates before taking a vote. The ‘six-piece’ way of voting seen in 2017 gave a free-pass to questionable individuals who were lucky enough to ride on their political party’s popularity. It needs to change. With the involvement of media in analyzing party manifestos, they can separate fact from fiction especially where incumbents are involved. A deeper understanding of the role of each of the elective posts will also enable voters question candidates who make promises that are not within their mandate. An informed ballot decision gives the voter more power and moral authority to hold those in office to account.

IEBC’s role really is crucial in ensuring the youth’s voices are heard. From sensitization to voter enlisting and conducting of party primaries. With the latter, youth have unfortunately been victims of intimidation and bullying when running against seasoned politicians. Transparent party primaries will guarantee that young people, particularly young women have a fair chance in political participation. The commission will certainly need the backing of civil society including election observer groups to not just execute their mandate but to hold them to account. Where applicable, the civil society should also educate the electorate on matters integrity to assist them weed out corrupt individuals who’ll sink the country deeper in impunity.

This season demands voter integrity, a moment for each Kenyan to look in the mirror and introspect. For youth, it is time to say no to impunity by refusing to be bribed to vote a certain way. Your voice should not be one that can be bought. It is powerful and can cause change, so let it.

It is better for media to get it right than getting it first

Posted by on 21st September 2021

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While misinformation has previously been reported and recorded since the early days of miscommunication, recent times have seen it become rampant causing a worrying trend. The recent doctored video that sparked the internet purporting Murang’a Senator, Irungu Kang’ata attended a Senate sitting virtually while in an establishment that sells alcohol left several major media houses in Kenya exposed for disseminating unverified information.

The manipulated video gave the impression that the senator attending logged into the Senate proceedings while in a popular nightclub in Nairobi – Sabina Joy. On responding to the claims, Kang’ata disclosed that on on Tuesday (14th September 2021) – when the fake video was taken – he was making his remarks in Parliament, asking about the payment owed to dairy farmers in Murang’a and not at the alleged club. He also refuted the claims saying that he has never taken alcohol and that such trumped up accusations were being propagated by his competitors. While monitoring the proceedings we could in fact confirm that the ‘inappropriate’ location that Speaker Kenneth Lusaka referred to, was the Senator’s car that was within the precincts in Parliament. This goes against the House’s standing orders that require one to virtually attend proceedings only within an office.

So, getting it first or getting it right? This is a vital question that many media outlets in the country should consider especially in the age of social media where news stories such as the reports of breaking news events, are likely to be inaccurate. This has been a never-ending debate going on in breaking and emergency news coverage; whether to get it right or to get it first. With the evolution of the technology and things like deep fake videos cropping up on the internet, it becomes crucial for the fourth estate to verify and authenticate to separate fact from rumor. This incident comes barely few years down the line when the media particularly the community-based radio stations were accused and charged with inciting violence through the dissemination of hate speech in the 2007 post-election violence. The Kang’ata incident exposes gaps in the media and non-compliance of media ethics when the country is just about to usher in an electioneering period that promises to be highly competitive.

Article 34 of the Kenyan constitution grants the freedom and independence of electronic, print and all other types of media. However, the freedom does not extend to propaganda for war, incitement to violence (ethnic incitement, discrimination) and hate speech. It is best for the mainstream media to understand that it is always better to be late to report the story than to report it first and get the facts wrong as was evident in Senator Kang’ata’s story. Misreporting information due to haste to report can mean having to embarrassingly apologize later as some major media houses were forced to. Even then a lot of irreparable damage to one’s reputation may have been caused. Therefore, getting evident-based news from the relevant sources is key and can help cement the reputation of the respective organization.
The incident should act as a wakeup call to all the mainstream media in Kenya that any potential news story sourced from social media needs to be verified before being published on their platforms that command huge audiences.

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on,” Winston Churchill. May the media stand in the light of truth as they exercise their mandate.

IEBC now fully constituted with a plate full of tasks ahead

Posted by on 8th September 2021

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The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) recently attained the quorum threshold following the appointment of four new members to the commission by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Their appointment comes after the four namely, Ms. Juliana Wihonge, Mr. Francis Mathenge Wanderi, Ms. Irene Cherop Masit and Justice Abonyo Nyangaya were vetted and approved by Parliament. The four now await to be sworn in by the Chief Justice with a plate full of tasks to be undertaken in preparation of next year’s general election.

Elections are viewed as the hallmark of democracy by way of generating public debate, shaping the public policy agenda, selecting representatives, determining the composition of Parliaments and influencing the distribution of power in government. A free, fair and successful democratic electoral process largely hingers on a clear, consistent and comprehensive legal framework and its implementation to the letter. IEBC is the single institution that comes under a lot of scrutiny and fire, in some cases, owing to the heated nature of Kenya’s elections. Almost all general elections in Kenya have been marred by ethnic conflict, violence and destruction of properties, which revolves around election management. It is no surprise that all attention now shifts to the four new commissioners and the current three who are expected to deliver free, fair and accurate polls.

The fully constituted commission now must hit the ground running in preparation of the 2022 elections. First, the commission is required to conduct mass registration and education of voters as stated in Article 88(4)(a) of the Constitution. A considerable number of youth have attained the voting age, 18 years, since the last election in 2017 and are yet to be registered as voters. This demographic is likely to make up the biggest chunk of voters in next year’s elections. It is, therefore, critical that the commission acts with speed to reach the masses countrywide with a clear sensitization programme on the election. To achieve this, the commission would have to hire officials to undertake the task. To this effect, IEBC put out an advertisement on 21st August 2021 for interested persons to submit their applications.

Party primaries are another important aspect in an electoral process since they determine which candidates will appear on the ballot papers for the respective seats. Party primaries have also been characterized with disputes owing to the role that party popularity plays in one’s chances of clinching a seat. Isaac Mwaura, who was axed from the Senate earlier this year, had sponsored the Political Party Primaries Bill, 2020 that seeks to put in place a legal framework for the conduct of the political party primary. In the absence of this Bill, IEBC is still well within its mandate to secure the integrity of party primaries and fairness for aspirants who may choose to use that route.

In handling the party lists that will be submitted to the commission, IEBC will also have the task to ensure fair gender representation. If overlooked, an imbalanced party list could ultimately lead to an imbalanced gender representation of members at county assemblies and the national Parliament.

The party lists present a potential battle ground between IEBC and aspirants for the MCA and MP seats who may not possess a degree as is required by Section 22 of the Elections Act 2011. In 2017, the implementation of this requirement was postponed to allow candidates to acquire these qualifications before 2022. IEBC moved to court last month to quash a case seeking to overturn the degree requirement saying that the move would be absurd and would be an offence to the Constitution. The push has also come through Parliament, with a petition tabled in June requesting the house to repeal Section 22 of the Act. The petitioners’ prayers might have been answered, not in the form of a committee report, but two new Bills read the first time in the Senate yesterday. The Bills by Senators Kipchumba Murkomen and Ledama Olekina state that they seek to provide for inclusivity in elections since the degree requirement threatens to lock out many potential candidates. The conclusion of the petition in court and Parliament’s decision on the Bills would, therefore, be critical to follow to see if Section 22 of the Elections Act 2011 would finally be in play in a general election and how that would impact the polls.

While the IEBC might have jumped over the quorum hurdle, the commission still faces the challenge of having sufficient funds to undertake their mandate fully. The commission currently has pending bills amounting to more than Ksh2 billion that could greatly hamper their preparations for next year’s polls. They blame the Treasury for delays in disbursement of funds to enable them clear the bills and run their operations optimally. The Treasury through its Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani committed to clearing pending bills during the budget reading. They should hold their end of the bargain to avoid any delays that may ultimately affect how elections are run next year. IEBC should in turn ensure everything is done by the book, including procurement of electoral technology, to ensure a peaceful elective season.

Parliament’s Oversight Weaknesses Threaten Service Delivery

Posted by on 26th August 2021

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The National Assembly went on short recess on Thursday, August 19th 2021. During the proceedings a total of six petitions, five statements and 35 questions were raised on the floor of the House. Out of the 35 questions asked by Members of Parliament, three of them raised concerns on the lack implementation or operationalization of certain laws or projects despite being given the green light three to four years ago.

A question directed to the Cabinet Secretary for Health by Kwale Woman Representative, Hon. Zuleikha Hassan sought answers as to why the National Coroners Service Act that was passed and assented to in 2017 was yet to be implemented. The Act provided for the role of a coroner-general that would be tasked with investigating all deaths arising in police custody, military and lawful custody. In the case of reportable deaths in police custody, the coroner-general would hand over the findings to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) for appropriate action. The application of this law would prove crucial in accelerating access to justice to many young people and their families who have died in the hands of law enforcement.

It’s not too long ago that two young brothers hailing from Embu, Benson Njiru and Emmanuel Mutura, died after sustaining serious injuries following their arrest for flouting the curfew rules. Initially the police officers in Kianjokoma claimed that the two young men got injured and died after jumping off a moving police car. An autopsy report would later prove this claim to be false. The absence of a coroner-general, four years after the passing of the law, presents a gap that is likely to be abused by law-breaking officers who may attempt to cover their tracks as was the case for the Kianjokoma brothers.

The question begs then, why has Parliament – a law-making and oversight institution – been unaware of the status of this law knowing full well the history of Kenya and extra-judicial killings? Why has the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government failed to appoint a coroner-general, as is provided for by the Act and how did Parliament miss this? Who watches the watchdog? These pertinent issues bring to the fore the need for effective oversight by Parliament, a critical role spelt out in the Constitution for the institution.

Two other questions by Githunguri MP Gabriel Kago and Awendo MP Walter Owino sought answers with regards to the delayed commencement of a road project and delayed operationalization of administrative units both flagged off in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Such projects falling through the cracks over a significant period potentially disempower the constituents who should be enjoying the benefits of proper public services and infrastructural development.

To some extent, regime changes occasioned by general elections have presented a possibility where projects started under the leadership of a different leader escape the attention of the newly elected. Perhaps this was the case for Hon. Kago who replaced Peter Njoroge Baiya after the 2017 polls. Even then, this should not be used to excuse the newly elected members as they’re expected to get acquainted with everything that has to do with their constituency.

These weaknesses in Parliament’s oversight role as an institution and at an individual member level threaten to deny taxpayers’ their money’s worth, delay access to justice to those who may seek it and delay the country’s development vision under umbrellas such as Vision 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A proper handover mechanism, either at constituency or county level, is necessary to prevent neglect of ongoing projects that mwananchi needs in the event there is a regime change. This should also be applied at committee level to ensure that the Executive is kept on its toes even when a new crop of legislators is elected and nominated to the house next year.

Campaign Financing Legislation and the 2022 General Elections

Posted by on 18th August 2021

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Implementation of Election Campaign Financing Act 2013 was suspended prior to the 2017 general elections with the promise that the Act was to come into force immediately after, that is the upcoming 2022 polls.

Part II of this Act explains the functions and the powers of the IEBC Pursuant to Article 88(4)(i) of the Constitution and section 4(i) of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act. Part III of the Act explains the regulation of expenditure ranging from election campaign financing rules; authorised persons; party expenditure committee; independent candidate expenditure committee; referendum expenditure committee and submission of expenditure reports.

Part IV of the Act on the contributions and donations lays down the sources of campaign finances; limits to contributions; anonymous contributions or contributions from an illegal source; prohibition on contributions; support by an organisation; disclosure of funds; surplus campaign funds; spending limits; authorised expenditures and media coverage. Part V of the Act outlines dispute resolution; offences by a candidate, a political party or a referendum committee and lastly general penalty. While part VI of the Act on Miscellaneous sets forth the registration and dissolution of expenditure committees; records; audit of accounts; claims and objection and provisions on delegated powers.

The Election Campaign Financing (Amendment) Bill, 2020 sponsored by Hon. Kigano, Clement Muturi, Chairperson of Justice and Legal Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, is a Bill that seeks to amend the Elections Campaign Financing Act to remove the bottlenecks that have impeded its implementation since it was enacted in 2013. When the Act was enacted in 2013, the intention was to give full effect to Article 88 (4) (i) which provides that it shall be the responsibility of the IEBC to regulate the amount of money that may be spent by or on behalf of a candidate or party in respect of any election. As earlier mentioned, in 2017 Parliament suspended its operation until immediately after the general election.

The Bill intends to: (a) focus the object of the Act to the constitutional mandate placed on the Commission namely, regulation of the amount of money spent election campaigns; (b) remove the requirements by independent candidates, political parties and referendum committees to form campaign expenditure committees to manage campaign funds on their behalf; (c) mandate the Commission to set donation and spending limits in respect of election campaigns; (d) restrict campaign expenditures except through the relevant party structures and restrict donations from impermissible and unknown sources; (e) restrict contributions and donations to election campaigns and clarifies permissible donors; (f) prohibit donations for election campaigns directly from foreign governments and (g) remove the requirement for the Auditor-General to audit campaign funds and require candidates, political parties and referendum committees to receive, account for and report to the Commission on compliance with the set limits.

Seeing that the country has already ushered in the campaign season, it is imperative that the Campaign Financing Act 2013 is operationalized to level the playing field for next year’s elections. Parliament’s pushback on the regulations gazetted by the IEBC proposing campaign spending limits per elective position, party and region threatens to exclude the marginalized from fielding themselves as potential candidates and allowing corrupt persons to have an unfair advantage by splashing funds acquired through dubious, watering down the integrity of the polls. If the Act is not operationalized this time around, who’s to say that the same won’t happen five years from 2022? Wouldn’t it be an unending cycle that encourages and allows corruption to thrive? What does this mean then for the quality of leadership? Food for thought.

International Youth Day

Posted by on 12th August 2021

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Article 10 forms the bedrock for inclusion and with youth categorized as one of the marginalized groups under Article 100, their interests should be bindingly incorporated in all governance affairs.  As of 2019, youth (those below 35 years) make up about 75% of the Kenyan population.  Despite the demographic superiority, it is interesting to note that youth participation in the political and governance process has remained incommensurably low, with majority of the young people viewing politics as a venture that requires extreme wealth and political patronage. This has therefore led to the creation of a ‘marginalized majority’: leading to discontentment, out-of-touch policies and wastage of crucial resources.

It has been said time and time again that the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow. But how true is this? Our Parliament (both National Assembly and Senate) has a total of 417 members. Out of this, Youth MPs, both elected and nominated, constitute a paltry 6.5% of the entire membership of Parliament. To further emphasize on this lamentable disproportionate youth representation, in the 11th Parliament (2013-2017), only 4 members were nominated to represent youth interests in the National Assembly. This number dropped to one only in the 12th Parliament (2017-2022). The situation is replicated in the Senate, with an initial number of six youth among the nominated which dropped to four in 2017.

Various challenges have been highlighted that face active youth participation in politics which, among others, include political parties’ preference for seasoned male politicians; the undeniable role of money, power and influence; apathy among the youth in participating in political processes. The high cost of politics has been brought out as one of the most prominent that requires immediate intervention.

For young women aspirants and leaders, the situation is even worse. They face the intersectionality predicament: being both youth and women. They are therefore left out in several nominative positions and face even greater hurdles than their male counterparts. This is due to challenges such as suppressed awareness, limited mentorship, inadequate support from political parties and cultural and patriarchal attitude.

Globally, only 16% of Parliaments have a caucus that focuses on young MPs. Kenya is proudly one of them. In partnership with the Kenya Young Parliamentarians Association (KYPA), Mzalendo Trust has been implementing a Virtual Youth Assembly initiative that draws its participants from political parties and allows for debating of youth-centric issues in a mock Parliament. Recommendations arising therefrom are then forwarded to Parliamentary Committee Chairs and Youth MPs. This promotes public participation of youth and inter-party youth dialogue in the governance process and strives to encourage proactive and performing members of Parliament to continue championing and advocating for public interest and youth issues.

So, what more can be done? Political parties should apply internal rules to promote the nomination of youth MPs, particularly women, by alternating the nomination list for women Senators between youth and non-youth women. This will cater for the inclusion of young women into political processes. Further, they should sustain full transparency in the nomination processes, including publicizing the criteria and the call for applications.

For the youth, deliberate effort should be made to shun the tokenism that has been seen in recent times. Additionally, there should be push for quality representation as opposed to focusing on quantity. Good legislative proposals that will meaningfully improve the lives of the youth will only come from those who understand their roles. There should also be proactive engagement and participation in political processes, including registration as members of political parties for effective and meaningful participation in nomination processes. The low representation should jolt the youth to the realities on the ground and push to ensure that they get representation from themselves and for themselves.

In conclusion, it is to put a twist on the quote. ‘The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow……if we procrastinate.’ Why tomorrow? Why not now? For you, the youth reading this, the time is now. It is you who can understand what your fellow youth are going through, and it is you who can advocate for change in Parliament. The time is now. Do not wait for others to take up your spaces when you are perfectly capable and beyond qualified. Happy International Youth Day.

Expensive Politics could lock out Minority Groups from Leadership Opportunities

Posted by on 4th August 2021

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In the 2017 general election, it cost a Senatorial candidate an average of Ksh 35.5 million to contest for the seat. This is according to what respondents said in a report dubbed ‘The Cost of Politics in Kenya: Implications of Political Participation’ jointly commissioned by Mzalendo Trust, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) and the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD). The report also states that it cost an average of Sh 22.8 million, Sh 18.2 million and Sh 3.1 million to run for the Women Rep seat, Constituency MP seat and MCA seat respectively. Political seats in Kenya do not come cheap or easy.

These figures combined what candidates spent from the party primaries to the general election. The report, however, found that candidates spent more on party primaries to win party tickets than they did on the general election. Reason being that by securing the ticket of a dominant party, one was almost guaranteed of a win owing to the popularity of said party or party leader during the general election campaign.

The more one spends, the more they’re likely to spend. Though this does not apply to women the same way, the report goes on to say. Findings in the study reveal that in most cases, women are spending more than men, but they are not enjoying much success as a result. The data demonstrates the prevalence and extent of a gender gap in the continuum of election spending, performance and results.

In summary, the findings of this report prove that political leadership has become elitist and a preserve of a few who can afford to splash millions to secure a seat. What does it mean for the minority groups who do not have access to such finances? What does it mean for a 30-year-old woman living with disabilities who seeks to effect change through leadership but won’t be able to gain audience from the public that she seeks to serve? How can this group of people be able to sell their agenda and compete fairly against individuals who wield more financial muscle?

During one of our training sessions with youth leaders in 2020, one common obstacle that emerged was the lack of resources compared to the more seasoned and senior competitors. Financial muscle has come to be such an important thing in the political space as witnessed with the voter bribery, intimidation of political opponents, bribery of electoral officials and securing of more media airtime to sell political agendas. In addition to this, money takes centerstage in buying of party delegate votes in a bid to win party nomination tickets. A fair playing ground, therefore, seems unimaginable and impossible for the minorities.

Politics has become less about service leadership and more about business and making returns on campaign investments. Youth like Enock Onkoba, a participant of the Youth Parliament Initiative by Mzalendo Trust and KYPA, have endured intimidation, party primaries rigging, prolonged resolution process by the IEBC and even death threats in his bid to secure an MCA seat. He says that despite his popularity among the voters, his political opponents who were senior and had more money used any means possible to ensure his name was not on the ballot. They succeeded. If young people like Onkoba, with his constituents’ interests at heart, are not granted an opportunity to serve then change and development through leadership will remain a dream.

Implementation of campaign finance laws gives all political candidates a fair chance at competing for elective positions. They also give new entrants a chance to beat incumbents who can access several privileges by virtue of the position they hold. It will be remembered that in the 2017 campaigning period, former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar accused his competitor, Governor Ali Hassan Joho for hogging billboards. A level playing field is not limited to matters of finance but equal opportunity to sell a personal political agenda.

As we head into the 2022 campaigning period, laws and regulations should be implemented to the letter to ensure that money does not take center-stage in the politics but issue-based conversations do. That way Kenyans can vote in people based on merit and in turn hold them accountable during their tenure.

World Youth Skills Day 

Posted by on 20th July 2021

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Celebrated since 2014 on 15th July, World Youth Skills Day is a day that seeks to celebrate the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship. Since then, World Youth Skills Day events have provided a unique opportunity for dialogue between young people, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions, firms, employers’ and workers’ organizations, policy makers and development partners. 

This year, World Youth Skills Day paid tribute to the resilience and creativity of youth through the crisis. Indeed, what a year it has been. With the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, most systems and processes across the world came to a halt. This situation affected the youth in different ways. In Kenya, the situation was no different. Kenya confirmed its first case on 13th March 2020 and immediately, a series of decisions, regulations and requirements came into effect. 

The education sector was among the first to experience total disruption. Following a country-wide shutdown of learning institutions, students were forced to go back home for an inordinately long period of time. While private school students had the privilege of attending their classes online, the same could not be said about those in public schools. Lack of affordable internet, access to technology hardware and access to internet connectivity was a huge challenge for learners in underprivileged areas. The resultant effect was that there was a rift in the education sector as those in public schools were left behind while the Government scrambled to find a solution. 

This situation was replicated in higher education institutions with students in public universities lagging behind in their studies while their counterparts maintained studies through virtual classes that were embraced slightly later by the public institutions. With the opening up of the country and loosening of Covid-19 restrictions, schools are currently back in session but the students are still under immense pressure to complete their syllabuses within the originally stipulated time frames. This, however, should not be an excuse to lower the quality of education that the youth in school receive, as they require these crucial skills in the future. 

Despite the devastating effects of the pandemic, the period has been a means for the youth of Kenya to show and prove their innovative nature and resilience. On 11th April 2020, just within weeks of the announcement of the 1st Covid case within Kenya, 16 youth innovators at the Kenyatta University were at advanced stages of the development of ventilators and swabs to easily detect the virus. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Trade and Industrialization had pledged support for the procurement, adoption and use of the kits. However, almost one year later, this has yet to materialize.  

Further, in a bid to evade the devastating effects of Covid-19 on the economy, many youth started businesses to earn some income to sustain their livelihoods. While there were somewhat friendly business policies and regulations in 2020, 2021 has brought with it harsher taxes that are affecting small business owners, a majority of who constitute the youth. This also applies to those who are salaried. 

To boost youth skills in the country, the Government needs to create an environment that encourages innovation and allows the thriving of businesses. This will eventually have a positive net effect on the economy. Additionally, the increase of TVET institutions across the country should be a priority. These institutions should be equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and should strive to recruit qualified trainers so that trainees can receive quality training and relevant skills. The students should be given capitation through KUCCPS and access to loans through the Higher Loans Education Board (HELB).

The Ministry of ICT and the State Department for Youth Affairs also have a vital role to play. Noting that technology is the way forward, the Ministries should leverage ICT to ensure inclusion of the youth in opportunities across the world and to capitalize on the brilliant minds that Kenya has. The Youth Enterprise Development Fund housed under the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender is another way the youth can be supported. It seeks to create employment opportunities for young people through entrepreneurship and encouraging them to be job creators and not job seekers. It does this by providing easy and affordable financial and business development support services to youth who are keen on starting or expanding businesses. It has been operational since 2007 but we call for greater transparency and accountability in the disbursements of funds to youth to ensure that no youth is left out, particularly the women and persons with disabilities. 

The youth make up almost 75% of Kenya’s population. They should be armed with the vital skills necessary to propel the growth and development of this country. This can only be done through concerted efforts.