Leadership takes courage, charisma and a pretty number of marbles rolling around in your head. Age is not a factor here, so if you think you have what it takes, and are courageous enough to take to the podium and sell your policies, by all means do it. These young people have done it in previous fields (although some have veered into the dirt road), so what makes you think you can’t make it big? Asks NYAMBEGA GISESA
Flamboyant youth leader: Babu Owino, 24
From the day he joined the University of Nairobi (UoN) to his last day there — when bouncers, flanking his Range Rover, momentarily stopped the graduation ceremony — Paul Ongiri alias Babu Owino enjoyed a controversial life.
He was not just stepping out in style, but also with a First Class Honours degree in Actuarial Science in his pocket.
While at the university, he pushed for the revival of the Students Organisation of Nairobi University (Sonu) following its disbandment in 2010 and subsequently made history when he became the first self-sponsored student to be elected its chairman.
He also served as president of the Kenya Universities Students Organisation through which he pushed for the increase of student loans from Helb.
He was a key team player in the Unesco Youth Peace Initiative and is one of the founding members of the Youth for Peace 2012, which aims to get young people to promote peace during campaigns for the next General Election.
Babu is said to be targeting a parliamentary seat — either Westlands or Kisumu Central.
Fighting for Christian and Muslim Cohesion is Fazul Mohammed, 26
The former Egerton University Students Union chairman is yet to practise in his area of study — bio-chemistry.
Instead, he prefers to champion issues that affect the youth and promote cohesion among Christians and Muslims.
Fazul served as the chairman of National Student Leaders Forum and the University Students Leaders Association, through which he championed for the increase of student loans.
After university, the then Internal Security minister, Prof George Saitoti, appointed him to the Coast Province Drug Abuse Sensitisation Committee.
He has also served as the director general of the Kenya Muslim Advisory Council and is currently serving the same position at the Association of Muslim Organisations in Kenya.
He is campaigning to be elected MP for Changamwe constituency.
Yvonne Khamati, 30
She first sought an elective position when she was barely in her 20s and has not left the public eye since.
Yvonne Khamati served as Kenya’s head of chancery and deputy permanent representative of the Kenya Mission to the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), the organisation that serves all UN offices in Kenya.
The President appointed her ambassador at the age of 25. She is currently the deputy head of mission to the Kenyan embassy in Somalia.
Yvonne has demonstrated leadership skills from a young age. At the age of 21, she was elected to the executive committee of Ford Kenya.
And did you know that by the time she turned 18 she had travelled with several heads of state and government to The Hague, Netherlands, to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol on behalf of the youth?
During her most recent public appearance, she accompanied the Prime Minister’s wife, Ida Odinga, to take ailing former boxer Conjestina Achieng to hospital.
She is also actively engaged in women’s issues.
Moses Nandalwe, 26
Moses Nandalwe employs traditional sayings and proverbs in his speeches, something that endears him to his listeners.
The 26-year-old works as a personal assistant of Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli and identifies himself as a defender of the poor.
He was expelled while in Form Two at Friends School Kamusinga as he agitated for students’ rights and again while at Kenyatta University, where he was the academic secretary of the Kenyatta University Students Association.
Nandalwe has served as the secretary general of the Kenyan chapter of the Universities Student Leaders Association and has announced that he will vie for the Sirisia parliamentary seat.
Even the marginalised have a say: Mwaura Isaac, 30
Mwaura Isaac wants to be a senator for persons with albinism. He served as the special needs secretary in the Kenyatta University Students Association’s executive committee and unsuccessfully contested the union’s chairmanship.
He currently serves as the special interest group adviser in the Office of the Prime Minister and is also the national coordinator of the Albinism Society of Kenya.
He is also a national executive committee member of the Orange Democratic Movement and chairman of Watu Walemavu Na Raila 2013.
Mr Mwaura has fought his way through life as an albino. Drawing inspiration from political bigwigs James Orengo, Gitobu Imanyara, and Paul Muite, he ventured into politics while in his First Year at Kenyatta University, where he was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education, specialising in Special Education and French.
He has a masters degree from Nelson Mandela University in South Africa and has just completed another one in public policy from the University of Leeds.
He also holds a diploma in public relations management from the Kenya Institute of Management.
Champion for children: Brian Weke, 31
Like many children born and raised in Nairobi’s Eastlands, Brian Weke did not join an institution of higher learning immediately after high school. Nor did he find a white-collar job.
Brian returned to the matatu industry, having previously plied several city routes as a tout after his primary education.
He worked as a tout until 2002 when Cradle, a non-profit children’s rights champion, employed him as a driver.
He has since risen through the ranks to become a programmes director at the organisation.
In 2003, he enrolled at Newport University and later joined Limkokwing University, Malaysia, and attained a Bachelor of Administration degree.
He also has a Master of Science in Organisational Development degree from the United States International University and is currently is undertaking a Bachelor of Laws degree at Catholic University.
He is a politician in Kamukunji constituency, a seat for which he has previously vied.
His favourite quote is “If you can’t fly, run, if you can’t run, walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever the case, we must keep moving”.
Brian wants to try his luck again in Kamukunji in the 2013 General Election.
“My dream is to see a poverty-free society, self-empowered youths, opportunities created for the youth, a better life for the citizen of Kenya, and a just society that upholds the Constitution, which safeguards the rights of all Kenyans. I am finding the power to step into leadership, to serve my people, and to live up to my promises of honest and participatory leadership,” he says
One of the top 40 under 40 women in Kenya: Priscilla Nyokabi Kanyua, 34
Priscilla Nyokabi Kanyua hopes to win the Nyeri County women’s representative’s seat.
She is the current executive director of Kituo Cha Sheria, a leading legal aid and human rights organisation, and an advocate of the High Court of Kenya.
Born in Karima, Othaya, Ms Nyokabi is a graduate of the University of Nairobi.
Under her leadership, Kituo Cha Sheria has received many awards, including the Civil Society of the Year Award in 2010.
She was nominated Top 40 under 40 Women in Kenya in 2010 and 2011.
Her favourite quotes include former US President JFK Kennedy’s “Ask not what the country can do for you but what you can do for the country,” and President Barack Obama’s “Stand on the right side of history.”
Nixon Korir, 27
From his days as the Sonu secretary general, Nixon Korir was already a national figure when he joined hands with politicians opposing the new constitution.
Korir is a founder member of the United Republican Party and was its first chairman. This is the party whose ticket Eldoret North MP William Ruto is using for his presidential campaign.
Korir currently heads the URP secretariat as the executive director and plans to vie for the newly created Karen-Langata constituency parliamentary seat.
His signature quote is “Nothing for us without us.”
Lydia Mathia is the secretary education of The National Alliance (TNA) and communication officer at Youth Agenda.
She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nairobi and is currently pursuing a Masters in Diplomacy at the same institution.
She has worked as a communication officer at Youth Agenda and as a facilitator at the Kenya Oral Literature Association.
David Osiany, 26
The former Sonu chairman did not have the best of exits when students who accused him of being a project of the university’s management disrupted elections in which he was seeking a second term.
Osiany had made history at the university as the first Second Year student to be elected Sonu chairman.
He is now the executive director of youth organisation Y-LEAD Africa.
Gladys Wanga, 32
While a student at Kenyatta University, she made history as the first female to be elected secretary general of the Kenyatta University Students’ Union.
The Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Health Management KU graduate loves politics and has announced that she will vie for the Homa Bay County women’s representative position in 2013.
The mother-of-two has helped to raise millions of shillings to promote tourism in the Lake Victoria region and was instrumental in the construction of the Abasuba Community Peace Museum that acts as both a tourism attraction and a place for the conservation of the Suba culture.
Mrs Wanga has also been involved in the distribution of sanitary towels in schools in Homa Bay County and has helped raise funds for water projects and for the fight against the HIV/Aids.
Anthony Kibagendi, 30
For sometime before the 2007 General Election, Anthony Kibagendi was commonly referred to as “Mr President” for leading the youthful party Vijana Progressive Alliance.
But when he joined Kalonzo Musyoka’s ODM-Kenya, a number of his supporters accused him of betrayal.
He plans to vie for the Kitutu Chache parliamentary seat, which he attempted in 2007.
Kingwa Kamencu, 27
Kingwa Kamencu’s book To Grasp at a Star won the youth category of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature, Kenya’s most prestigious literary prize, when she was a First Year literature student at the University of Nairobi.
The Oxford University student sensationally announced (tears flowing) in October last year that she would be seeking Kenya’s presidency, becoming the youngest person in Kenya to declare interest in job.
Kamencu was vice-president of the National Youth Parliament, and served as the president of the Africa Society at Oxford University.
From Entertainer to politician, John Kiarie, KJ, 34
Before he ventured into mainstream politics, John Kiare was already a household name in the entertainment industry as a member of the hugely popular Redykyulass comedy group.
He also ran a comedy cartoon strip for Sunday Nation’s Buzz magazine.
KJ was a founding partner of the Vijana Tugutuke youth movement, an initiative aimed at getting young Kenyans to engage actively in decision-making.
During the 2007 General Election, he vied for the Dagoretti constituency parliamentary seat, one of the most hotly contested and disputed political zones.
KJ is currently the ODM Youth chairperson.