On Thursday (26th October) Kenya held another presidential election, after the country’s Supreme Court overturned the initial result and called for a new election. Since 2016, a group of Kenya’s youth has been working to overcome a pattern of communal violence and corruption with a manifesto focused on the issues that matter to all young Kenyans. Here, the manifesto’s author, Willice Onyango, explains.
“I want a Kenya where corruption and fake elections will only be read about in history books,” a young respondent texted to the Coalition for Kenya Youth Manifesto secretariat during our public consultations.
The majority of Kenyan youth is traditionally excluded from meaningful participation in civic processes. Since the youth are any society’s best asset to secure a working democratic state, I felt it is important that their perspectives, needs and aspirations should be brought together in one united philosophy. We did this during the 2017 Kenyan general elections through the Kenya Youth Manifesto.
“Our vision is a Kenya that values diversity, environmental sustainability and active participation by all citizens, particularly its young people”
My chief motivation was the unshakable belief that the youth’s active participation, aspirations and vision can shape Kenya’s development and the future of its democracy.
We created the Coalition for Kenya Youth Manifesto by bringing together a broad network of key stakeholders with the active participation of civil society, business, youth groups, academia, government departments, and the media.
Through a series of consultations with youth groups across the country, alongside expert-led and youth-moderated Twitter chat sessions and short mobile-based messages, we canvassed the views of the youth for the Manifesto.The audiences for the consultations represented the full diversity of Kenya’s youth.
All this was with done the view to upholding the values of a democratic state, to provide a platform worthy of forming part of the political agenda in the 2017 General Elections.The manifesto is non-partisan.
“No young person in such a Kenya would be excluded or marginalised because of gender, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation”
By engaging with political parties we ensured that politically active youth were not left out of the process. Our researchers combed through all existing youth policies and interventions to write the Manifesto, such as the Kenyan constitution, the East African Community Youth Policy, African Youth Charter, and the United Nations World Program on Youth.
Altogether, these activities yielded hundreds of responses, both from individuals and groups. The drafting team then prepared thematic summaries, clustering the inputs under specific issues before developing through active iteration the versions which led to the final draft of the Manifesto.
In sum, the key vision that runs through the manifesto is a Kenya that values diversity, environmental sustainability and active participation by all citizens, particularly its young people.
A Kenya that operates under an economic system based on fairness and equality, where everyone feels safe and has access to basic and quality services like health and education no matter their tribal background or economic situation, is what we want. No young person in such a Kenya would be excluded or marginalised because of gender, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation.
Young people in this Kenya are incorporated into decision-making processes and given access to the levers of power.
This obviously calls for sound governance. The manifesto defines good governance as open, transparent, responsive, honest and accountable. We are paying keen attention to the devolved units created by the new Kenyan constitution: institutions that receive a significant share of the national resources and which are key to improved service delivery and development at the local level.
The launch of the publication took place at Zetech University, Ruiru, and brought over 1,200 young people, youth leaders, invited guests and two presidential aspirants. The project has so far raised over $300,000 through a mix of grants and individual donations.
So far, the manifesto has been presented to the leading 2017 presidential aspirants, major political parties, county governments, groups in the private-sector, and other development partners. Over 3,000 hard copies have been distributed and over 10,000 have been downloaded online.
“Government agencies have asked to use the document to inform emerging youth views in their relevant task forces”
Thanks to the document, we have seen an open interaction that has fed into the general democratic scene and stimulated proposals of transformative solutions, marking a departure from past elections. Some of its provisions, like a call for free universal secondary schooling and the increased allocations of funds for youth enterprises, have been adopted by the two frontrunners for the presidency.
Research institutions have also expressed interest in using the document for their work in areas such as youth migration and peace, among others. The private sector is interested in using the document to understand youth priorities and opportunities for investments within the demographic. Government agencies have asked to use the document to inform emerging youth views in their relevant task forces.
In the short-term, we are disseminating copies of the publication to the newly elected Kenyan parliamentarians and county governments. In the medium- and long-term, we are mobilising new partnerships to continue the work. We will push for youth policy dialogues through public participation, within the remit of the constitution, with a focus on local legislatures and public finance.The quality of county governments rests on their management and implementation of public policies on a local level, and their interactions with citizens.
In accord with our partners and friends, the Coalition will endeavour to generate youth-sensitive policies proposals within the current 5-year electoral cycle through democratic cooperation. By doing this, we shall amplify best practices that focus on challenges that affect the Kenyan youth in the 21st century and promote sustainable development.
(Picture credit: Willice Onyango)