It has, generally, been a good year for Kenyan youth. Winning at least one county governorship position, a couple of Senate seats and a good number of MPs and dozens of MCAs, 2017 was one of the most rewarding years for this category of Kenyans in the leadership sector.
This year’s General Election was one of the most competitive in recent times and for youths to be picked out from among more senior and experienced politicians, it shows that a good number of voters believe in giving them an opportunity to lead.
The Under-35s — as identified by the laws of the land — are normally associated with vigour, creativity and progression. That’s why an increased number of them was entrusted with important leadership positions nationally and regionally in the elections.
Nandi Governor Stephen Sang, 32, was trailing in the race for the top county seat just months to the August 8 poll. Facing seasoned, more established politicians, he gained an unbeatable momentum in the later stages of the campaign to clinch the seat by a desirable margin.
He thus became the youngest governor ever elected in Kenya.
Governor Sang picked youths to occupy almost half of the County Executive Committee and Chief Officer positions.
Nandi also has the youngest Speaker in the region, Joshua Kiptoo, 28, and the youngest senator, Samson Cherargei, 29.
And the county was not the only one that gave youths influential seats as others also entrusted this age group with various leadership posts.
Governors seem to appreciate the youth by giving them senior county posts, an indication that they are keen to involve them in decision-making on matters affecting them.
However, some counties seem not to have seen the need to have youths in the top echelons, leaving them, once more, at the periphery of leadership. It is not particularly impressive to see some governors pick people as old as 50 and above for dockets directly in charge of the youth.
NO YOUNG CS
With a country teeming with millions of youths, President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has often associated himself with them, would do the group a big favour if he filled at least a quarter of his Cabinet with youths.
The constitution of the last Cabinet was a huge disappointment to the youth — who form a large bloc of the population — as the President failed to appoint a single young person as a Cabinet Secretary while only one was, unsatisfactory, named a Principal Secretary.
For youths in leadership positions, the celebrations ought to be over. It is time they showed what makes them different from their older colleagues and did some work.
It hurts to see that some youth, especially those in Parliament, are already struggling to settle yet they promised dozens of things to the voters during campaigns.
It might be too early for them to give a true picture of their capabilities. However, somebody who is yet to outline their development agenda four months into a five-year term could be considered incapable or lacking leadership qualities.
It’s unfortunate that most of the youths in leadership are yet to hit the ground running, choosing instead to occupy themselves with posting selfies and other non-issues on social media. Adorning the platforms with photos is alright but, when that is not accompanied by the work they were elected to do, then there is a problem.
It would make a big difference if they came up with a development structure covering their terms. Not only that. They should also identify short-, mid- and long-term targets and make them as achievable as possible.
Consultative forums with residents should not be a once-in-a-blue moon affair. The young leaders should use their innate vigour and energy to hold regular meetings with the led, so as to know their needs.
Some elected leaders have been accused of disappearing in Nairobi upon their election, only to reappear in the constituency a few months to the next polls. It would be a painful indictment of the quest to have the younger generation take over leadership if those in office followed this path.
For those directly in charge of managing resources, the biggest gift they can give residents is utmost transparency and consultative leadership.
Putting youths in senior positions should not be just a song that is sung every election cycle but, when that partly happens, those lucky to be elected or appointed should demonstrate why they deserve to be entrusted with the posts.
Mr Kiplang’at is the Nation Media Group (NMG) Regional Editor, North Rift. [email protected]