Garissa County Youth Are Deluding Themselves
By Mohamed Haji
It was with bemusement I watched a section of Garissa County youth threatening the County chief and other elected politicians because of what they said was their long term joblessness. Some of the frustrated youngsters threatened to unleash waves of street protests on the county to spite what they claimed was a County chief, a Majority leader, a County Senator and members of parliament who have abandoned them after the elections. Frustrations, disappointment and dejection showing on their faces, the jobless youth said politicians come knocking on their doors for their votes during campaigns only to abandon them after they secure a win. This is partly true but there is more to it. Firstly, while the claim that politicians abandone them after winning elections is true, its incorrect for the youth to say that politicians come knocking on their doors to seek for their votes during campaigns. The knocking on the doors is not only false it’s a delusion unless the youth want to declare selective amnesia. The youth are not seen as important or worth the politician’s time. The truth is, no politician comes knocking on their doors seeking for their votes. The politician’s votes are designed, discussed and decided at forums where the youth have no access let alone a say. Few middle aged men and elders who are society’s gatekeepers make these decisions for them. This demography in Garissa, for example, is less than 12% of the population. So just like the skewed and unfair distribution of wealth and welfare, decision making is skewed towards the minority of men that excludes youth. What the youth actually do, is come in various camps supporting these supposedly ‘anointed’ leaders purely on the bases of clan and sub-clan affliation. The idea that there are politicians who hanker after their votes and therefore sit and discuss with them their manifestos and what voting actually means for them (the youth) is at best delusional.
There are, broadly speaking, 3 categories of youth in Kenya in general and in NEP in particular. The first category are those society calls ‘iskoris’ or ‘ciyaal suuq’. The two terms in their pristine definitions are actually innocent. They mean one who fights for his daily bread or ‘children of the market’ but carry a different and deeper meaning which is deragotary. I am not interested in their morphological analysis today. For this category, hooliganism is their tool of trade. They support the ‘anointed’ leaders without question and act as the gatekeepers but only during the short campaign period. They will insult, fight and even assault anyone they think is against the ‘anointed one’. They hear no evil and see no evil in the clan’s representative to the eating table who they believe will benefit them and only them after he assumes office. When the elections are over and the elected representative retires to Nairobi where he belongs, these youngsters will have no access to him and since he had no policy of benefit to them and no contract with them to deliver development, all they are left with is lamenting in the streets, asking for handouts whenever he is in town which is very rare and crying on social media platforms for the next 5 years. Unfortunately, they never learn lessons. We are a bewitched people and therefore we do the same after the 5 years and the same category of youth will do and say anything to sanitise the same leader for a second term.
The second category are the partisan actors and political elites who call themselves professionals. The title professional is a battered appellation at best. It is so hyper inflated, Kenya will soon bust under its weight before even its economic meltdown catches on. I digress. The professionals mainly operate clan-based WhatsApp groups and facebook pages where they regurgitate what the oldies have passed under the trees. They accept and support weak candidates whose only claim to leadership is the wealth they amassed through power, which they first acquired by an accident of history and the amount of money they have pilfered from a public entity in a previous incarnation. This group claims monopoly of knowledge, entrench the sad notion that they can only support minions from their clan as leaders and only their clan can represent the rest in leadership positions. Their claim is not based on any facts or their support for the individual is not based on the fact that he has any knowledge on management or leadership or has any rational, sound policy or politics. Just purely because he hails from their clan, he fits the bill. These, are our professionals and because the society that educated them for the benefit of all looks upon them for guidance, they are responsible for much of the damage inflicted on the society by the so-called leaders they ram down our throats.
The third category are very small in number, almost negligible. In fact they are an endangered species. They do not toe society’s line, often call, albeit in hushed voices, for change, point out what ails the leadership and basically the voice of reason in the murky muddy waters of clan politics. However, they remain isolated, are called names and known as unpatriotic to the ‘needs’ of the clan. It is part of life’s paradox. They are mainly seen in city caffes, with laptops. They are mainly full of brilliant ideas and pass time writing policy papers that society hardly sees or benefits from because substance is not actually what society craves. The quick mediocre solutions sold by quacks is what society wants. This group does not mingle with the clan reps or political appointees and are therefore sidelined from the decision making tables. In this category is a sub-set that is hands off everything. Even if society is drowning they wont lift a finger to safe a child. They fend for their families and keep to themselves and die a mutually deleterious life.
The youth come in these 3 shades of colours broadly speaking. So what moral right have they to complain when the tide hits them hard? The youth have two self types in their politics. The experiencing self and the remembering self. If they expect their role and importance in the shaping of their future acknowledged, they must learn how to reconcile these two self types. The reason their experiencing self differs from their remembering self is hard to fathom. Perhaps what they remember from what they experienced is both minimal and mismatched and unless this changes, they will remain jobless, their public funds will remain in the pockets of the few and the quality of life in their communities will continue to decline. If they want to salvage their future and want to be listened to, they ought to change and change quickly because the next tide which is coming is bigger and bitterer than the previous.
The youth are neither serious nor consistent. I will give an example. The president commissioned a solar plant in Garissa last week. Unfortunately no concrete information on how many jobs, if any, it will create for local youth was available. Sadly, what many of the youth in the county and the politicians who accompanied him were most interested in, was who dragged the president to Garissa not how the commissioned project may be used to create gainful employment for them. How does his visit or the politician who lied to him that all is good going to help improve youth unemployment? The president of the country coming to a county, to commission a project or initiate development programs is not a privilege. It is his duty. So instead of the same youth holding him to account, the same politicians they elected to office actually deny them access or even worse, the youth themselves are interested in the mundane handout business, the here and now. It is sad.
Between the government of Nathif Jamaa and Ali Korane Garissa County received just under Ksh 50 Billion. This does not include, CDF and other funds from either development partners or national government. We were told, the confused management style of the former banker will be replaced by that of an experienced administrator. All we have seen is more centralization of decision -making, fudging and more perverse mismanagement. Now you tell me what shillings 50 Billion could do for a county of less than a million people. What development projects worth Sh 50 billion have we seen in this county? Why would its youth be unemployed? Why would its residents go without water? Why would its roads be this rundown? Nothing except the naked runaway looting of its public funds can justify this. Leaders can claim and blame the 60 year old national government marginalization, manufactured insecurity or anything, but the damage visited upon this society because of their lack of care and runaway public funds mismanagement, is second to none. Commissioning non-existent programmes, launching fake projects and claiming to employ youth in dysfunctional offices is not development and will not translate into employment for the youth. Prudent management of funds, attraction of investors and curbing of corruption is what will help youth get gainful employment. Supporting start-ups, paying service providers such as contractors on time and building decent roads is what will create employment opportunities. Lifting the burden of pursuing education off the shoulders of parents and making it hundred per cent free from primary school to university, fully nationalising and improving health services and investing in information technology is what will create employment for the youth and improve lives. It is not rocket science to know how to make Shillings 50 billion achieve this and more. It just needs integrity, honesty and loyalty to more than the self.