The Youth factor in Kenya 2012 politics and beyond

For the first time, the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD Kenya) will be focusing on strengthening youth participation in political parties.  This milestone is envisaged in a partnership programme with the Danish Liberal Democracy Programme and Danish Institute for Parties and Development whose goal is to enhance institutional capacity of political parties in Kenya, through an increased participation of youth and the development of innovative communication strategies.

The programme launched in November 2011 will see the youth empowered to step up to the plate, participate in political parties and processes as well as push for actualization of gains realized in the constitution especially those that provide equal access to the benefits of development and representation. Speaking at the inaugural event in Nairobi, Hon. Abdikadir Mohammed emphasized the fact that youth have the numeric strength and therefore a head start in politics. However, they need to develop relevant social policy ideas that connect with the masses. In sharing their experiences as young political leaders, Danish MP's Hon. Mads Rorvig and Hon. Karsten Lauritzen said youth have ideas especially on issues concerning them and can help in reaching out to other young voters.

The inaugural event brought together over 100 youth from different political parties to discuss ways of empowering the youth and strengthening their participation in political organizations. The cross-party forum also deliberated on ideas and strategies for participation by the youth in the forthcoming general elections.

Several activities have since followed the launch enabling young people to identify needs and priorities for their involvement in political parties and understanding their critical role of how to communicate the mission of their political organizations. Currently, political parties are undergoing training on building communication strategies for successful political campaigning.

The communication component of the programme is evidently helping youth realize their advantage of being more technically-oriented while political party leaders are appreciating the need to utilize this to harness the benefits of technology in campaigning. Political parties and candidates can only for instance ignore the bushfire phenomenon that is social media at their own peril. The multiplier effect of the power of this new form of communications and networking will be unsettling to those used to conventional forms. The communication strategies being developed have a special focus on creative and innovative ways of communication thus accepting social media not only as a reality but as a potent weapon for 2012.