It’s decision time, stand up for your rights

Raila Odinga, William Ruto

Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga (left) and his Kenya Kwanza counterpart William Ruto.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

It is that time again when Kenyans go back to the ballot to decide the country’s direction in the next five years. As the clock ticks towards election day, voters are being taken on a rollercoaster by politicians, some of whom are feigning a kiss of concern after disappearing for five years.

We are approaching the homestretch. The surge of anticipation is alive and confusion and mental twists and turns are now vivid. Aspirants are ready to serve all manner of propaganda, empty rhetoric and optical illusions to hoodwink naive voters. However, one silver lining in the cloud of this year's political contestation is the growing number of women and youthful aspirants sprouting in our political spaces.

In retrospect, the majority of the youth and women have been viewing political seats as the preserve of wealthy men and have largely remained timid.

Veteran politicians have always taken youths for granted. It is common to see youths featuring prominently in campaign caravans, only to be thrown under the bus after polls. It is unfathomable how youths are, more often than not, conspicuously missing at the decision-making table.

The system is brutal and unfair. Young people are always promised to be leaders of tomorrow and when tomorrow comes the old folks still cling to the seats. The youth must rise above being used by politicians to fire salvos at their opponents in social media for political mileage.

 We must avoid being used as agents of spreading ethnic hate and balkanisation or clan politics in the local context. Most Kenyan youths are a learned lot and must push for accountable leadership. Saying no to politics of tokenism is what will transform our society for posterity.

That notwithstanding, we also need the enthusiasm of the youth at the decision-making tables and must encourage those willing to shatter the glass ceiling and rise to top echelons of power. Kenyans must vote for development and reject bribes. Our women are also not left behind. The gradual push for women empowerment and representation has borne, and continues to bear, fruit, hence women’s participation in politics cannot be overemphasised. Gender-based violence is among the avalanche of challenges our women face.

To be better in all fields, we must confront the problems bedevilling our women, especially in marginalised communities. Our institutions must be vigilant to deter attempts to bully our youths and women in political spaces. They must clear all bottlenecks to create a level playfield where aspirants contest on the agenda card, not financial might.

We must debunk the myth that leadership is for the chosen few. The youth and women seeking leadership must also know it is an opportunity to serve and not to amass wealth. We must vet leaders to change our country for better. Our future will depend on the decisions we make in August.

Timothy Mwirichia, Meru


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