alexa No country for young people: It’s elders’ time to eat — again - Daily Nation

No country for young people: It’s elders’ time to eat — again

Saturday October 19 2019

Moody Awori, Esther Murugi, Francis Muthaura, and Mary Wambui.

Moody Awori, Esther Murugi, Francis Muthaura, and Mary Wambui. They are among those who were handed government jobs after retiring. PHOTOS | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Every time the Kenya Gazette publishes the special edition featuring appointees to parastatal boards and other government agencies, the list is always littered with names of people who were born when Daniel Moi was still a herdsboy.

When I saw the latest edition, I looked up the life expectancy in Kenya. As at 2016, it was 64 years for men and 69 for women. Then I checked the ages of the appointees.

Moody Awori turned 91 this year, and while you'd expect him to be an elder statesman offering grandfatherly advice to upcoming leaders, the former vice-president accepted to be hauled back into government, taking up the chairmanship of the Sports, Art and Social Development Fund. Former Kwanza MP Noah Wekesa, at 83, is the chair of the Strategic Food Reserve Fund.


Former Funyula MP Julia Ojiambo, at 81, is the chair of the University of Nairobi Council. Former Kitui senator David Musila, 76, is the chair of the National Museums of Kenya, while former Othaya MP Mary Wambui, 69, is the chair of the National Employment Authority. We could go on and on, but you get the point.

Had merit been a consideration in this appointment, Mary Wambui wouldn't have come close to the shortlist. Her appointment wouldn't even have been a national concern had this been an exception rather than the norm.


In 2013, The National Alliance (TNA) and United Republican Party formed a coalition that fronted Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto for president and deputy president. Then, the duo made age a major campaign issue.

They reminded the country that they were a youthful team campaigning against the Old Guard, who had outlived their usefulness and needed to retire.

They coined the Digital vs Analogue slogan, promising Kenyans that their government would be youthful, vibrant and tech-savvy. It helped that the TNA chair at that time, now Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, was a youth.


Their campaign was glamorous, high-octane, and full of young this young that. They promised the youth lucrative jobs in the civil service, government tenders, funds for business start-ups, sponsored post-graduate internships, subsidised technical and vocational training, and other goodies that would have left Father Christmas green with envy.

The youth who couldn't do business with government agencies but had talent in other areas were not left out.

If you were talented in sports the Jubilee government would build five worldclass stadiums across the country.

You only had to find the nearest one and start chasing your dream. Those who were good at art, craft and music were promised incubation hubs in every constituency.


To prove they were serious with this youth empowerment agenda, young musicians were invited to State House to teach the President and his Deputy how to dance, and speak in Sheng. Actors, disc jockeys, comedians, and all manner of youthful talent showered praises on a president they found cool, humble and youth-friendly; and a deputy who was a retired hustler.

Today, not even a blade of grass has been procured for any of those five stadiums on the Jubilee web portal.

What became of the 30 per cent government tenders to organisations run by young Kenyans? University graduates are being slapped with penalties for education loans soon as they graduate while the firms they hope to find jobs in are retrenching people faster than a speeding bullet.

Look around you and the youth are crying tears of pain out of neglect.

We now know that the promise to make the civil service youthful was just bait for youth votes because, when the President was asked why he appointed Moody Awori to the Sports, Art and Social Development Fund, he told a packed Kasarani Gymnasium that young people were incorrigible thieves who couldn't be trusted with public office.


But you cannot expect someone the age of a mugumo tree to revitalise service delivery in government. There is a reason the government came up with a fund for persons over 65, and we are happy to see our taxes being used to help older persons to buy food and clothes.

This government needs to pick one struggle: abolish the social protection fund and ask all persons above 65 to report to the nearest government office for deployment or retain the billions we pay them every month and keep them away from government employment.

Of the ways of breathing life into political deadwood, recycling them back to government isn't one.

The writer comments on topical issues; [email protected]