This has been a great election for the youth.
We have our first young governor, 32-year-old Stephen Sang.
We are also present in the Senate, through the incoming Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja.
And how can we forget the National Assembly phenomenon from Maua, Meru County, 23-year-old John Mwirigi.
It is my belief that these leaders, along with hundreds of others in local and national government, will further the cause of youth participation in Kenya’s political and economic field.
But our electoral gains have been overshadowed by post-election violence.
Pictures and videos of young men terrorising Kenyans, all for political gain, have once again painted the youth in a negative hue.
This is why I must state clearly; post-election violence harms no other group greater than the youth.
We suffer directly through the causalities and perpetrators of violence, who are overwhelmingly young.
What some of our politicians see in these youth is a combustible cocktail of hopelessness, despair, and poverty, ready to be exploited.
This vision has been a consistent part of how we perceive the youth.
Regarding the plight of the youth in politics, Prof Karuti Kanyinga noted that our biggest contribution was often to get the candidate of the day elected.
After that, we would be cast to the political wilderness until the next election cycle.
It is saddening that his words ring as true today as they did in the early 1990’s.
This is why I’m telling the youth, if we have to fight, let it be for ourselves.
Fight for our wellbeing, our education, our job opportunities.
Fight for our interests. We don’t have the time to wait or waste.
Kenya is blessed with a demographic dividend.
As our fertility rates fall and life mortality improves, we will have a situation where “the labour force temporarily grows more rapidly than the population dependent on it, freeing up resources for investment in economic development and family welfare.
“Other things being equal, per capita income grows more rapidly too.”
This is according to the International Monetary Fund. The organisation goes on to state that, “These outcomes are not automatic but depend on the implementation of effective policies.”
It is, therefore, in the youth’s interest to ensure that development conscious policies are effected.
So the question is; how do we get there?
For a start, we should challenge our leaders on youth-centric legislation, whichever party they may belong to.
Let us move our political debate away from win or lose competitions.
Because if Kenya was to burn down, no one would win. But if roads are built, hospitals erected, then we all win.
But more than anything else, the youth need to stand up and support their own.
We are 70 per cent of the population, if we wanted, we could vote in a candidate to State House.
Let us take advantage of what we have — numbers. We need a legitimate, non partisan youth lobby group.
As the founding leader of the Youth Senate, I am especially aware of the need for more visible means of representing our interests.
If President Uhuru Kenyatta was to call on the youth today, where would he go? A credible youth lobby would be a start.
Every five years, our leaders descend among the youth for that special campaign stardust.
We sing for our political leaders, we dance for them, too. We canvass for politicians, selling their policies door-to-door.
We do everything under the sun to ensure our candidate wins, including killing.
And we do it all for Sh50, or Sh100. We should not be surprised that those same politicians do not value us after they win.
The famous American physiatrist, Morgan Scott Peck, once said, “Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.”
Kenyan youth need to put more emphasis in valuing our contribution to the country.
This means ensuring more of us are turning the levers of politics, finance, entertainment and whichever field we may choose.
Gideon Keter is the President of Youth Senate. [email protected]