As a write this, I am facing a room full of young women. The Young Women Aspirants Convention brought together by civil society group Youth Agenda has assembled some 120 fresh-faced and starry-eyed hopefuls for Senator, Parliament, County Assembly, Governor, Women’s Representative, and other political office come 2013.
Now, I am not used to this. I am about the only man in the room alongside civil society guru and political activist Cyprian Nyamwamu, TNA chairman Sakaja Johnson, and a handful of Youth Agenda staffers.
I have addressed many conferences in my time, some very high-powered featuring heads of state and other big shots, but here all the eyes were rather unsettling. I think that is how a fish feels out of water. Or a creature in the zoo.
It is not just the roomful of feminine eyes focused on me that make me nervous, but the fact that they are looking at me with hope and expectation. They expect expert advice on media strategy for their political campaigns.
I tell them what I can, gathered courtesy of many years covering politics. But even as I dispense these words of wisdom, I have great doubt in my mind. Should I be leading these young women into the den full of hyenas instead of shepherding them to the safety of more productive and worthwhile pursuits?
The countdown is on towards the 2013 polls, and our so-called leaders have not learnt the lesson of the bloodbath last time around.
The pursuit of leadership in Kenya remains a ruthless and vicious competition in which decent and honourable persons are pulled into the sewers.
We have many young, enthusiastic, and patriotic Kenyans who desperately want to make their contribution to society, but doing it through political office is fraught with pitfalls.
There is something sick and debasing about Kenyan politics. I have seen the most earnest and dedicated young men and women elected to Parliament, and within a short time they have reduced themselves to rabid attack dogs for narrow sectional and ethnic causes.
A casual look at our Parliament today will indicate that there is little to differentiate between the lawyers, doctors, engineers, and the crooked rabble that somehow rises from the gutter.
Once respected professionals today operate in the same sphere as some very uncouth characters.
Am I betraying these young and impressionable minds by encouraging them in their political pursuits instead of telling them to run in the opposite direction?
However, I am persuaded that change in Kenya must come from below.
It is the injection of fresh faces and ideas in the political sphere that ultimately will make irrelevant the brand of politics driven by those tired and corrupt ethnic jingoists who presently dominate the political landscape.
The funny thing is that the likes of the leading declared presidential candidates give us similar promises of change and reform, but base all their politics on the same old brinkmanship of yore.
We survived the 2007-2008 meltdown, but there is little to suggest that the afore-mentioned candidates will do anything differently.
All come across as faithful students of the Kenyatta-Moi-Kibaki school of ethnic chessboards, divide and rule, and unbridled corruption.
Can the young women at the convention yesterday and other aspirants elsewhere in their 20’s and 30’s really come out to make a difference, or are they no more than groupies for their ethnic eating chiefs?
There is bound to be a lot of gnashing of teeth over Kenya’s performance at the London Olympics. There will be calls for inquiries and the chopping off of heads.
Issues already in the public domain, such as the power-struggle between the National Olympic Committee and Athletics Kenya, must be fully ventilated.
Some asinine decisions, such the moving of the men’s 10,000m trials to the United States and the controversial Bristol camp, must be fully examined. So must the largely unmentioned political factor — as we recall that some brain dead politicians did publicly ask athletes to boycott the Olympics in solidarity with the ICC suspects.