Fights intensify for youth vote ahead of 2022

Thursday, November 18th, 2021 00:00 |
DP Ruto Photo/Courtesy

Key presidential candidates have devised different strategies and started dangling carrots as they fight for the youth vote.

Deputy President (DP) William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga, Amani National Congress chief Musalia Mudavadi and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka have not only made pledges targeting the youth but have been actively reaching out to them in rallies and meetings. 

While Ruto has been dishing out millions of shillings to youth groups, Raila, Mudavadi and Kalonzo have promised policies that will empower young people.  

Raila recently held a meeting with youths from Mt Kenya at the University of Nairobi while Kalonzo hosted university students at his Karen residence. 

Other than dishing out money, Ruto has promised to create four million jobs for the youth during his first year in office.

Sustainable solutions

“Kenya cannot be built by stipends. We need jobs and business opportunities that will make them economically independent,” he says.

Ruto says that youth unemployment remains a serious issue, that needed practical and sustainable solutions.

In his tour to Ukambani region, a few weeks ago, Ruto said improving the country’s economy through his bottom-up economic model will put the country in a position to secure employment for the youths.

To woo  the youth, Raila has promised them decent jobs, tax holidays, an increase  of university loans, creation  of a stand-alone ministry for youth and establishment of a boda boda fund. 

 Raila has also proposed to create a Youth Commission to “advance the participation of the youth in all spheres of public and private life”.  “Creating opportunities, particularly jobs, for these young people is the biggest challenge this country has to deal with going into the future,” Raila said, describing Kenya as a “young people’s country”.

Raila further seeks to redesign, revamp, and re-launch access to government procurement opportunities—famed as AGPO, for more young people to get State tenders.

Yesterday, Mudavadi declared that half of his Cabinet will be made up of the youth, if he forms the next government.

 The ANC leader says that he would appoint young people aged between 18 and 34 to the Cabinet and other government positions.

 He said the youth form a huge percentage of the country’s population and that they should no longer be sidelined in running public affairs.

“Kenyan youth aged 18 to 34 are 14 million and form a whopping 32 per cent of our total population of about 48 million,” said Mudavadi.

 “I have taken an introspection on this issue with the knowledge that nations exist, to protect the young and plan for inter-generational succession,” the former Deputy Prime Minister added.

 He said he would put the current six million jobless youth to work instead of hand-outs adding that he was appointed a Cabinet Minister at the age of 29.

 “There is no magic in being a Cabinet minister. Before me, the independent government was majority manned by the youth in their 30s,” he added.

On his part, Kalonzo Musyoka has vowed to convert student loans, often given to students in tertiary institutions by the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb), into a grant.

 The former Vice-President says once he ascends to power he will make the loans a grant and free Kenyan youths from huge debts to Helb.

 “It’s very sad that you still find most young people in the country being chased up and down to pay this money, while they are still jobless. We have a lot of minerals which we will sell to make education cheap and affordable to everyone,” he argues.

 Anthony Manyara who is the President Kenya Universities Students Organisation however downplayed the promises as unrealistic.

 “The truth is that most of these presidential candidates are just devising ways to win us. They promise things which they cannot deliver. Ruto has been there, Raila the same and we have not seen anything new,” he said.

He added: “ All these will not influence young people; we have seen such promises and nothing has ever changed. We only need new strategies to win the youth.”

Lawyer Kipchumba Karori  argues that youth will be a critical vote base in the upcoming elections and whoever will sway them to their side, will have an advantage.

Empower them

“Will the youth be swayed by Raila’s promise for a Youth Ministry? Political promises come with ambiguity and immeasurable optimism. I struggle to appreciate that a ministry would help the youth, simply by the privilege of having one,” KArori said.

“Youths cut across all sectors and dimensions of the socioeconomic and political landscape,” he told People Daily.

Advisor on Youth Affairs at the Office of DP Anthony Kibagendi argues promises made by Ruto will work for him because he has been actively involved in their activities.

“Young people are very difficult people but if you master them well, they can rally behind you. If you look at people like the DP, he understands what they want. Despite being second in command, this guy dresses like young people, hangs out with young people everywhere and has establishment programs to empower them,,” he said

ANC Secretary general Simon Kamau rallied behind the promises saying Mudavadi has been working closely with the youth.

“It is beyond any reasonable doubt that Mudavadi has shown his effectiveness to work closely with the youth. I am a young person who he believed in and gave me the position of secretary-general,’ said Kamau.

Perminus Njogu alias “ Ndovu’ a pro-Handshake youth leader in Kiambu is also optimistic that Raila will fulfill his pledges to young people.

“Raila is a leader who stands by what he says, he knows what to do and when to do it. For a fact, Raila has been in this country for long and he understands what problems young people are facing,” Njogu said.

He added: “ That’s why we are fully behind his promises. He knows that technology is in an advanced stage and that’s why he can’t promise things like wheelbarrows or handouts.”

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