11 August 2012

Kenya: Youthful Leaders With Old Generation Ideas


When you are a member of the "Uhuru generation" (born after 1963), you could get encouraged when you realise that the youth are actively struggling to take over the leadership of the Republic of Kenya. In many political upheavals around the world, the youth are always on the front line. During the PEV in Kenya after Raila Odinga's presidency was stolen, majority of those who braved the front lines were the youth. Many of those who were shot dead by security forces were young people.

There is not a single revolution which has ever succeeded without massive support from the youth. In fact, many rebellions, mass insurrections and revolt against tyrants and dictators around the world are normally spear-headed by the youth, the future leaders. As recently as late last year, the youth took to the streets of London to protest against plans by the government to raise education fees while in Italy, repeated anti-Berlusconi protests have mainly been led by the youth.

In Greece, where the government faced economic collapse, the youth led anti-government rebellions and battled riot police for days in the streets. Last year, the Tunisian dictator fled the country following a rebellion that was fundamentally led by the youth who were protesting against structural unemployment, high food prices and marginalisation by the government. Back in Kenya, the Saba Saba revolution, which brought about political pluralism in the country, was mainly driven by the youth who paid with their lives to open the democratic space.

Kanu's 40-year hold on power was finally put to an end by the youth who supported the opposition and forced former dictator Daniel arap Moi into retirement. The delivery of a new constitution in Kenya could have come to naught had the youth stayed at home instead of attending mass rallies to show support. Today, there is no question that any politician or political party that can be supported by the Kenyan youth can easily come to power. In fact, the big question should be what happens when the youth have seized power. The secret behind a youthful leader getting to State House is to convince the youth with ideas and to underline the need for a generational change in the country's leadership.

During the past two elections, very youthful leaders have managed to enter Parliament. Here, names like "Simo", Mungatana, Jirongo, Ruto, Uhuru, Joho, Sonko etc come to mind. Unfortunately, political performance by some of these leaders has been as dismal as the old guard while their tactics have been as dirty as those of the old guard. The most pathetic observation is that the ideas these youth have been selling to members of their generation have been as old and unworkable as those of the old guard. Without going into much history, let us examine the cases of two youthful "leaders" currently on the headlines.

We have two very high profile names - William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta - playing with the idea of taking over the country's leadership. However, when you look at their ideas, they profess the same ethnic-based politics that have been perpetuated by the old guards since the days of independence. This dirty politics have promoted tribalism and polarised the country along ethnic lines for years. The two are preaching the politics of "we Kalenjins" and "we Kikuyus" so what they need is another Wamalwa to proclaim "we Luhyas" and new side-kicks to surface with "we Luos", "we Waswahilis", "we Kambas" etc to complete the circle and head to State House to grab power and share the loot as the question of mass unemployment and marginalisation of the youth continues under their leadership.

Kenya youth must not be naïve. Throughout their utterances, there is glaring evidence that our youthful leaders who have the opportunity are as politically bankrupt as their wazee counterparts who have ran down the country. With tribal politics as their sole leaning posts, ethnic alliances are inevitable, alliances that will see the country go round the political round-about for generations as poverty deepens and human suffering continues unabated.

Kenyan youth need leaders who can put forward the alternative of an alliance between the working people, the army of unemployed, students and peasants to take over power, not just to get to State House but to overthrow the system of government that every dictator has used to run down the country using henchmen and a cabal of ethnic chauvinists who believe that some tribes are better than others in Kenya. Kenya needs leaders (young or old) who can end the domination of the country by a few rich thieves who steal from government every day and get away with the loot because they are "protected" by their godfathers.

Some of the youth leaders hail from different ethnic groups, but they are all members of the rich class of wealth grabbers that have conspired to keep millions of Kenyans hungry.

A new ethnic alliance in Kenyan politics will simply replace this thieving class without changing anything at the grassroots. This class is Kenya's enemy number one and changing them is like changing clothes as a way of curing a seriously sick patient - it will never happen. Millions of Kenyan youth understand the dynamics of "the rich and the poor wars". They know that ethnic alliances benefit no one but the ruling classes, their friends, allies and sycophants. They are genuinely worried about the cycle of hopeless ethnic alliances that do not benefit the country.

What is still not yet understood by millions of voters is how to drive class-based politics that could side-line the rich and lead to power take-over by the deprived and exploited classes. It is this kind of politics (class politics) that the youth ought to be driving. When teachers go on strike to demand higher wages, they do not do so as different ethnic groups but as a class of exploited workers in the teaching profession.

Likewise, matatu touts constitute a class of exploited workers in the transport industry. Jobless youth are in a class of their own regardless of whether they are Luos or Kikuyus. This is where they will remain (may be at Mathare) regardless of whether Raila or Uhuru takes power. The price of unga, paraffin, petrol and other basic consumer commodities will never go down as long as the rich continue to be in power in Kenya because the same rich thieves and robbers are involved in unga, paraffin, petrol and other businesses at grand levels.

Every year, workers living on starvation wages have been hoping for pay rises commensurate with the rate of inflation. This will never happen if workers themselves cannot be represented in Parliament to argue their case. The State is in the best position to create jobs for the youth through investment of State resources. The reason why jobs are not being created is because the ruling class is stealing money that could be invested in roads, housing (to house millions especially in urban areas) and other development projects that could create jobs. Kenyans who understand this politics should help by delivering the message to the youth.

The myth that the youth can change Kenya if they take over leadership needs to be reconstructed because we already have a large number of youth in Parliament. Without radical ideas, youthful leaders can be as hopeless as their father's age-mates and grandfathers currently in positions of power. The country is witnessing the spectacle of youthful leaders with old-generation ideas that will never bring tangible political changes to the suffering masses. The Kenyan youth must not be naïve.

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