4 February 2013

Kenya: Dear Young Kenyans, Vote for Your Life


The world over, young people rarely vote. They see the exercise as detached from their lives. In fact, some young people who were quizzed in the lead up to the 2008 elections in the United States said they felt the federal government worked like a machine, and that changing presidents meant little more than changing the picture they hang up at the post office.

For them, voting meant an hour gone from their day, with little to show for it. The issues they care about are almost never discussed, and there is such a gulf between what candidates say they will do and what they do in office that it's impossible to trust anyone.

You are nodding and I'm shaking my head. Stop it. You will and you must vote and while you are thinking of how and who to give your vote to, let me just say I wish someone had bothered to have this conversation with me years ago.

I'm dedicating my heart, mind and energy this month to listening to the voices of the approximately five million young people who have entered our voters' register for the first time and who will be casting their ballot for the first time on March 4.

Lynda Nyangweso, who will be sitting opposite me in the studio, tells me she is yet to be convinced of whom to vote for and if the calls we aired last week are anything to go by - she is not alone. Some 27 days to go and counting - the politicians are baying at the moon.

Since I refuse to even suggest that young people may not vote - I want to concentrate on why one must vote. Errol Morris, award-winning filmmaker, puts it very well: "To vote at all is an odd leap of faith". Calling it a civic duty is not enough. Either you believe that the system is both changeable and worth changing, or you don't -- and many new voters are not convinced.

I have been called an idealist, even a dreamer by some - they think I spend too much time worrying about stuff that can't change or won't change and I'll wake up one day and find myself broke and broken. Let me be.I might fail, then again I might succeed, where's the harm in giving of my best? Voting as Morris says is a perfect example of my brand of madness.

So, you guy, you girl, I need you to take a keen interest on the utterances and actions of those vying for office in the next 27 days and ensure you cast your vote no matter what anyone says because:

Your generation has the ability to move mountains, not merely by voting but also by voicing your opinions about politics and becoming involved on a more regular basis. It doesn't end when you vote - it starts when you vote. I believe people who don't vote shouldn't speak and shouldn't eat.

My other compelling reason is that most issues that concern you and affect you have been decided, for the most part, without your significant input. From education to jobs, to grades, who you can and cannot date and reproductive rights. It's your life - for heaven's sake say something.

You need to save the world. Yap, you read that right - the world. Global warming and environmental issues impact us all. The leaders you elect today must understand that you are 20-something and the future belongs to you. You still want to breathe clean air when you are 30. Vote for smart people who are conscious.

Vote for your chums. The primary thing the government does is collect taxes; you have no option but to pay taxes. Gava takes a serious chunk out of every paycheck and from profits on your investments to provide critical services. Politicians we elect decide what taxes you will pay and also how they use that money. Remember the late night robbery of Sh9.3 million a piece? Yap. You better vote for people who won't and can't pull those stunts.

Vote for yourself totally and selfishly, vote for your unborn children, vote for my children, vote for your kid bro and kid sis - vote for the next generation. Decisions we make today impact all generations that follow. Make choices that will improve your lives.

Above all Generation Y, vote or lose your right to complain. If you don't bother to cast a ballot you can't whine about problems. It doesn't matter whether your vote ends up going for the winner or loser - it's your vote - take a stand, make a choice. Some 27 days to go.

Pay attention, this is when they go all out to woe you. Remember, you are not running for office, they are. Let them convince you. Get tough, get focused, get involved. They are running for a plum job, the stakes are much higher for you. This is about life. Yours. Vote for your life. Just 27 days to go to D-Day.

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