Being young in Kenya is dangerously close to being included on the list of 1,000 ways to die. If the youth survive depression, being shot by police or thugs and other malaise, Parliament is hovering above their heads like the Kenya Revenue Authority does over our payslips.
The House has lately dealt a major blow to young people and done it with the arrogance of an avocado seller when the fruits are off season. Much of it did not register because we were fixated on BBI politics and the never-ending drama of the recording artiste and ‘parte after parte’ poster boy Mike Sonko.
MPs have shot down three laws that would have changed the welfare of young people in a major way. As youths around the world use drones for film, photography, meal and medicine delivery, such opportunities are flying past Kenyan youth after Parliament annulled the Kenya Civil Aviation (Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems Regulations, 2017) in November.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority published the drone regulations in 2018, legalising use of the remotely controlled aircraft, but Parliament had to ratify them. MPs’ approval would have allowed Kenyans to acquire drones for commercial and social purposes. However the Committee on Delegated Legislation pointed out there was insufficient public participation in drafting the regulations. Now, anyone caught flying drones will either be jailed for up to a year or fined up to Sh100,000 – anyone except the government, of course. Meanwhile, a report from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates that drones will create more than 100,000 jobs by 2025. Those jobs won’t be coming to Kenya anytime soon, thanks to our parliamentarians.
The same committee, chaired by Uasin Gishu Senator Gladys Shollei, threw out legislation that would have improved terms of private security guards. The regulations were meant to operationalise the Private Security Regulation Act passed in 2016. Among the many proposals was that the minimum wage for a night guard be hiked to Sh27,993 for night guards and Sh25,641 for a day guard. The excuse? The regulations breached the Constitution due to lack of ‘public participation’. They also claimed that the pay rise was not practical. Most of the 500,000 security guards in Kenya are young people trying to eke a living. If there is something wrong with the laws, fix them. That is why we pay you so much.
Finally, when this government came to power, it encouraged youths to borrow money and start supplying to the government. Some did, but they have not been paid. Then the Treasury got this inspiring idea to block disbursements to counties that have not cleared pending bills. Just a little hitch: It required the approval of Parliament.
The Budget and Appropriations Committee shot down the proposal citing technicalities. Acting Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani was trying to force counties to pay the pending bills by threatening to cut funding even on Thursday. Counties owed their suppliers Sh64.2 billion as of October 28. Most of these pending bills are small amounts owed to youth-owned SMEs.
Parliament passes laws that benefit them within minutes. When the courts declared CDF illegal, MPs hurriedly amended the parts struck out and the fund was back. Why didn’t they do this for the youth? The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) released a report that revealed that nine out of every 10 unemployed Kenyans are aged 35 and below; the largest unemployment rate was recorded in the age group 20–24. If that is not a sobering statics that should call MPs to order, then I don’t know what will.
The writer is the assistant editor, Sunday Nation. [email protected]