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"War is too important to be left to the generals” is a famous quote, attributed to Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929). The quotation has also become famous in a politics version. T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) wrote in 1927: “Politics has become too serious a matter to be left to politicians.”
The politics version is notably becoming the mantra among Kenyan youth as the electioneering mood grips in. The mantra is propelled by the ongoing County debates which bring together young people, youthful aspirants and their senior peers in political parties to discuss nothing but politics. The County debate agenda of focusing on youth participation in politics is aimed at enhancing participation of the youth in political parties and processes in a meaningful and empowering way.
In the debates, forthright dialogue on issues such as wise voting dictated by issues as opposed to personalities, importance of political leadership, leadership and vision, why political parties are an important element in a democracy, how parties gain or lose credibility, how political parties can respond more effectively to the citizens’ concerns, political and civic education on new dispensation (Constitution of Kenya 2010, Political Parties Act 2011, and Elections Act 2011), one can only hope that young people will approach the forthcoming pivotal general elections with a different attitude and mindset by not only making deliberate choices for competent leaders but also strategically positioning themselves as front runners.
In the 14 of the 47 Counties where the debates have so far been held since the launch in March 2012, the overarching message has shaped around the fact that while yesteryears youthful generations played a central leadership role in defining the destiny of their country, current political leadership responsibility in Kenya has been largely abandoned to politicians, majority of whom are elderly men.
Blending the yester-years and current youthful generations is the distinctive aspect of the debates. At initial stages of every County debate, blame games abound with both generations pulling their side of the stick. Young people are challenged to define their historical mission and said to be too comfortable with their professional life and unwilling to make any sacrifices.
Stories are recounted of freedom fighters whose historical mission was independence. They put their lives in line in a war against a superior colonialist force to free Kenyans. Second liberators braved torture and police brutality to challenge an autocratic leadership of the 1980s and early1990s until they realized the mission of restoring multiparty democracy and starting a constitution review process. On the other hand, the youth assert that the current elderly political elite (yesteryear youthful generation) is domineering and unwilling to mentor but ready to take advantage of their inexperience, meager resources and lack of extensive political networks necessary to make a serious a stab at elective politics.
Some of the leaders involved in this noble discussions include 81 year Mzee Gitu Kahengeri-a freedom fighter and former MP, Hon. Paul Muite- a well respected lawyer and political leader aspiring for the
presidency in the next general elections, Hon. Mwashengu wa Mwachofi- a former MP and Hon. Prof. Kivutha Kibwana – a scholar and politician currently serving as a presidential advisor and aspiring Governor in Makueni County. These leaders among a host of others are credited for their significant role us 2nd liberators who have relentlessly pushed for political and constitutional reforms.
According to Hon. Muite, it is imperative that every citizen understand and help solve the problems of government at every level. Hon. Prof. Kibwana, holds that the only sure way to fix the challenges brought about by inept leadership is by the young people organizing themselves, setting the agenda and forcing all political aspirants to strictly address that which they have determined as important. “The enemy is not a youth from another community but the political elite around you playing bad politics. Forty years down the line your sons and daughters will stand on the same podiums with similar complaints against you if you don’t shift away from tribal and corrupt politics,” he commented during one of County debates.
The divergent points of view of a domineering elderly political elite and a politically less interested youthful generation notwithstanding, the debates have been tuned to revolve around the imperative need to seek proper political leadership, an issue only realistic if young people change attitude toward politics and appreciate how political leadership is paramount to all spheres of their life. The County debates are pursuing this mission to reality.