Cross Party National Youth Conference

 

Introduction

 The one day cross-party national youth workshop was convened to discuss ways of empowering the youth and strengthening their participation in the political parties. The workshop also deliberated on ideas and strategies for participation by the youth in the forthcoming general elections.

 

Attendance  

 

The workshop was attended by 71 female and male young politicians/political party leaders drawn from 25 different political parties in Kenya.  DIPD/DLDP delegation consisting of Karsten Lauritzen (MP, Danish Parliament), Mads Rorvig (MP, Danish Parliament), Nanna Louis Jensen, Hanne Lund Madsen and Helene Horsburg were also in attendance alongside Kenyan youthful MPs, Hon. Abdikadir Mohamed and Hon. Rachael Shebesh.

 

Welcoming/official opening remarks

 

Participants sang the 1st stanza of Kenya’s national anthem as an opening prayer. In his opening remarks, Omweri Angima of CMD Kenya said emphasized the importance of the program stating that it was the first time CMD was focusing on strengthening youth participation and communications in political parties. He also said the program would enable exchange of experiences, transfer of knowledge as well as facilitate dialogue among politicians, political parties and youth.

 

Dr. C.F. Onyango of CMD Kenya said the CDMK & DLDP/DIPD partnership necessitated fresh impetus in relation to youth work by CMDK. He underscored the critical role of the constitution as an enabler of the big reform agenda in the country. He highlighted article 55 of the constitution which obligates the State to take measures to improve the welfare of the youth, agenda four reform issue on youth unemployment and a key recommendation of the Kriegler report on proportional seats. Dr. Onyango pointed out that political parties should ensure nomination lists are done transparently since representation was now a constitutional matter.

 

Helene Horsbrugh –DLDP Program Manager told the gathering that she was inspired by Hal Koch – (1st Danish Youth Council chair) about proactive youth involvement in political parties and processes. She said youth are crucial for sustainability of democracy adding that Kenya was at a decisive stage where the youth needed to positively contribute to the forthcoming general elections.  In regard to the program, Helene said DLDP/DIPD was pleased to positively through capacity building with activities lined up over a period of 16 months.   

Hanne Lund Madsen –DIPD senior advisor, emphasized on the need for non-violent strategies and bringing youth to the center of national politics. She also said DIPD mandate in the program was to contribute by involving Danish actors.

 

Ouma Osera representing the Nairobi slums inter-parties youth forum decried the exploitation of youth by politicians.  He said youth need to be empowered and given a chance to engage in party affairs to be able to seek political leadership.

 

Antony Kaara- CMD K youth committee chair said the chances of young people to engage in political parties and processes had steadily increased over the last decade.  He acknowledged the positive contribution by young political leaders saying that it was ‘young turks’ who fought for the re-introduction of multiparty democracy in Kenya. He challenged young political leaders to shun tribal politics and take responsibility for peaceful and non-violent political campaigns and elections. He said the youth have the numeric strength which young politicians should take advantage of by setting their agenda around issues of social and economic importance.

 

Key note address by Hon. Abdikadir Mohammed MP, chair CIOC

 

Hon. Mohammed started his address by highlighting examples of young leaders who had accomplished much at a fairly young age. He mentioned Tom Mboya who passed at age 39, Alexander the Great at 31 years, Jesus Christ at 33 years and the current Canadian National Assembly Speaker who’s serving a 2nd term at 33 years.

 

He was positive that Kenya was on the right track but needed to overcome the biggest challenge of cultural shift of ethnic based politics to improve youth participation in politics. He explained that ethnicity being the most potent tool for mobilization in Kenyan politics, the subject needs to be openly discussed with a view to utilizing it to get good results. He appealed to the media to help educate on positive ethnicity by focusing on issues and shifting political debates to reform mindedness and progression. 

 

He also emphasized the fact that youth have numeric strength and therefore a head start in politics giving an example of the recent revolutionaries in Middle East which were led by young people and youthful ideas that connected with the masses.

 

In respect of his responsibility as the chair of the parliament’s constitution implementation oversight committee, Hon. Mohammed said the country was progressing very well on the reform agenda. He lauded the judiciary reforms and the electoral management reforms which he said would go along in making the electoral process easier and provide a level playing field to help more women, youth and marginalized groups succeed in politics.

 

Presentations

 

Hon. Karsten Lauritzen- MP Danish parliament made a presentation on Danish politics, Hon. Mads Rorvig MP Danish parliament discussed gender balances in Danish politics in his presentation and Nanna Louis Jensen highlighted the case of youth involvement in politics. A summary of the issues from the presentations are as follows

 

  • Youth have ideas especially on issues concerning them and can help in reaching out to other young voters
  • Youth organizations should not be ‘for youth’ but ‘of youth’ to ensure that it is the young people setting the agenda
  • Achieving gender balance in politics requires deliberate policy decisions by political parties

 

Nominated MP, Rachael Shebesh discussed her experience in political parties and processes as a young political leader. Some of the issues she discussed include the following:

  • Young people need to add value to political parties
  • Young people need to establish their own niche, remain focused and relevant to the specific issue(s)
  • Mentorship is important in political leadership- youth shouldn’t consider parties and senior members as enemies but mentors

 

Cyprian Nyamwamu made a presentation on mobilizing/energizing the youth for national leadership’ which discussed the following issues:

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  • Youth have made gains in the new constitution that they need to take advantage of
  • Youth leaders should be strategic, focused and understand historical mission of the their party
  • Attitude of organization for the youth movement in Kenya should move upstream and deal with issues of public interest at the national level
  • There’s need to create a youth moment and pursue it in the fashion of constitution and multiparty democracy reforms
  • There’s need for young people to do think tanking to deal with their leadership weaknesses. The ‘youth think tank’ should research and publish on critical issues of the youth constituency to enable progress achieved by women through a similar strategy
  • The current youth generation needs to establish their historical mission and how it should be delivered.
  • Youth should find strategies to position themselves and gain access to political parties, state agencies, donor agencies and partnerships
  • The five Ps of youth strategy/organizing are – Perspective, Positioning – what message do we want out there about us? Plan- what is to be done when? Power- resources needed to do… Participation – where are the youth in this? Ploy
  • Young people must look stable and win trust
  • Youth need to overcome the cowardly syndrome

 

 

Plenary  

 

The following issues/questions were raised during the plenary session:

 

  • Political Party Act 2011 is harsh and punitive to creating political space by making registration of a party very expensive
  • Should youth establish a youth oriented party or should they infiltrate existing parties-what is ideal for Kenya?
  •  Are the youth elsewhere (e.g. Denmark) considered a threat like in Kenya’s political scenario?
  •  Why is Kenya government opposed to the National Youth Council?
  • What strategies can work for young politicians to have a successful political campaign – ‘Hon. Karsten case’ 

 

Response by facilitators

 

  • Hon. Shebesh emphasized the need for deliberate and structured mentorship.
  • It’s not easy for youthful politicians to get endorsement from party leaders hence the need for young politicians to work hard within party ranks to gain recognition, following and support from members and the electorate
  • Hon. Lauritzen said parties can deny funding to candidates considered unfavorable therefore the need to put in place systems, structures and strategies to raise funds and enlist volunteers.
  • Hon. Shebesh said she did not support the National Youth Council in the way it was being established. Hon. Karsten shared a similar opinion explaining that for a youth organization to serve the interests of the youth, it should be set up from the civil society perspective