NERIMA: Youth maybe wasted on the young, but it’s a time for choice and mistakes

Thursday September 19 2019

Kenyatta University students vote for their leaders

Kenyatta University students vote for their leaders during the Kenyatta University Students Association elections held at the university on October 16, 2014. PHOTO | JENNIFER MUIRURI | NMG 

NERIMA WAKO-OJIWA
By NERIMA WAKO-OJIWA
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The Kenyan parliament will be back in session in a few days and one of the important Bills to be discussed is the National Youth Council Bill or NYC.
The NYC is a little-known state organ created to represent the youth, some of whom don’t think it has done much so far.

The NYC was created in 2009 and enacted in 2013. It was four years of fighting and interference from other quarters seeking to control its leadership and agenda.

NYC representatives were chosen from the community level in a bid to have a semblance of organisation and accountability before national elections could be held.

But when it dawned on some political busybodies that these representatives would have clout and a powerful mandate over he youth, coupled with poor funding from the government, they went all out to scuttle its national elections direct interference.

So the national elections ended up being marked by irregularities and political influence.

The NYC Bill is currently being amended to make sense out of a number of things.

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The biggest bone of contention over the Bill is the clause seeking to have no elections for the NYC.

This is not new ground. I have commented here on the Duale Bill, formally known as the Universities Act that was signed into law by the president in 2016.

The law got rid of the requirement to have university student elections, meaning, students cannot even elect their own Student Council president. With no elections, young people feel disenfranchised because they do not have a role in their own lives.

That is exactly what is happening in our universities. Students used to be active and vibrant in college and national matters, to the extent of agitating for rights to have a say on fees charged or loans granted.

This is why to 30 youth organisations have come out give recommendations to legislators on the NYC Bill before it is amended.

I recently asked a group of students when they last had a public protest against any issue affecting them and they could not think of any. Why? because since they don't vote for their leaders they don't recognise any other authority and they choose not to engage them since they are imposed on them.

That is what is currently being debated about the NYC. That by having a nominated council, it means they are aligned to a political party, or even worse, family affiliation.

But those pushing for no elections argue that in order to tame the young people, there is a need to get rid of violent elections and a rogue independnent councils. But who said the youth need taming?

The coalition of youth organisations has come up with recommendations. They include a formula on how to hold elections, and have representatives from as low as the ward level, to county representation.

To organise youth efforts as well as looking into the sectors representing the council. Currently, the government is targeting the Girl Guides and Scouts, movements, which granted, several chyoung people are engaged in, but not limited to.

They forget areas such as agriculture, or health, or business, or technology. Youth are not homogenous.

Also the fact that the Bill currently being debated has no sense of co-ordination when it comes to the NYC, giving rise to individual counties setting up youth councils, yet matters dealing with youth is not a devolved function as per the constitution.

The NYC also relies on funds from the state, and an argument is being put forward that permitting the council to fundraise will increase its autonomy.

Additionally, the suggestion for youth organisations to make contributions to the council through membership subscriptions.

If you want to know how much a country believes in its youth, you need to look at the institutions that protect them.

Structurally, strong youth councils in Africa are hard to come by.

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

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