A merry 40-year-old youth in Kenya decided to join politics to serve society... Big mistake

Friday May 24 2019

The age of youth in Kenya falls in the bracket of 18-34 years. And Kenya is one of the countries with an "old" youth age group.

The United Nations defines the youth as persons between the ages of 15 and 24 and several countries in Africa actually cap youth at 30 years of age.

That being the case, why within the corridors of power here are young legislators aged 40 considered youth?

Currently, a young parliamentarian is considered a youth until he/she passes the age of 40 years.

Additionally, in our politics, a 50-year-old is the new kid on the block. The logic behind this is, by the time a young person decides to join politics, it can take several years to rise up the ranks.

We have seen the likes of Julius Malema rise from leading the youth wing in a mother party, forming his own party and changing political dynamics in a matter of years. This is, to say the least, difficult to do in Kenya.

Yes, we have seen parties rise to leadership due to vibrant youth being at their core, but always led by older men.

Why is this the case? Youth have no capital to run a major political campaign, so they enter politics with the support of a political party, being vocal and instrumental in the party. Others are related to the right people in power and are handed a particular position (without even asking for it).

For some being a full member of a political party and campaigning to be elected is the long and narrow path, which many choose to venture on and generally come out scarred, or are bitten by the political bug and become addicted to the continuous cycle.

Then there are the outliers, those that have been selected by the community because of their sincerity and zeal. They campaign with nothing more than a mere bicycle or literally walk from door to door persuading people to vote for them.

Fundraising while young is difficult, one does not have the experience to bank on, so coming up with the funds needs clever strategy or well-connected friends who believe in you.

Statistically, the Members of Parliament below the age of 40 that we have in the government is higher than we had in the last House.

Every election cycle, more and more young people are entering leadership positions (the number is not where it needs to be, but it is increasing).

Members can now form a caucus and be able to push their agenda, but why do we not have a loud youth agenda at the moment? Many of us align ourselves to political parties, rather than issues affecting young people.

This is not just the case with our leaders, we see it with young people everywhere. For instance, young people in universities identify themselves as professionals before they see themselves as youth.

The thing about change is, the ones fighting for it do not often get to see the fruits of it. The selflessness of leading and knowing that it is for the ones who come after you to enjoy is a culture that we lack politically. What we have is more about how to benefit now.

Nerima Wako- Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. Twitter: @NerimaW

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