Excluded youth, a ticking time bomb

4th Africa Inclusive Conference

Delegates follow proceedings at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Nairobi on May 31, 2023, during the 4th Africa Inclusive Conference, whose mission is to scale up the advancement of digital accessibility and computer-assistive technology in Africa.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Jesus Christ was born into a society of Jewish religion headed by Pharisees and scribes. This subset of privileged persons formed the elites of that era.

But how did his revolutionary Gospel of “love and unity” spread in such a society? Simple, his core followers were the outcasts of that society. The hated and stigmatised tax collectors. The prostitutes. The hated Samaritans.

His message of hope and inclusion found solace amongst them.

And Jesus never spared these "elites."

In Luke 20, he calls them out, "woe to you scribes and Pharisees hypocrites. For you devour widows’ houses. And for a pretence make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. "

These social outcasts — a coalition of disliked prostitutes, hated tax collectors and despised Pharisees — embraced Jesus’  message and tolerated subsequent persecution. And by doing that, they spread a religion of love that finds resonance to billions even today.

Probably if the Jewish society 2,000 years ago was more coherent and non-discriminative, the Gospel would not have fallen on fertile ground and germinate into the now giant Christian faith.

But the elites of the existing order never notice decay of their system. They are usually blinded by privileges of existing order so much so that they cannot see the earth collapsing below their feet.

They often uniformly react violently towards the change but it is always in vain — they can only delay the change but not historical destiny of change.

That explains the crucifixion of Jesus, the elite folly conspiracy to extinguish the revolutionary message. History now vindicates Jesus — his message survived him. Think of any other social and economic new phenomenon that has spread over the history.

It is first embraced by dejected and discriminated sections of society who then use it to topple the existing order. Take another example of colonialism. When colonialists came to Black Africa, they first set to see what social outcasts exists in those societies. They would then embrace the social outcasts who would then form the initial cell that would ultimately expand to topple African traditional beliefs. 

For example, among many black African communities, anyone ostracised would find solace in Christianity. In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, the traditionalist Obi Okonkwo had little regard for his son Nwoye because he was too "womanly."

That discriminative attitude led Nwoye to defect to Christianity. The same theme is repeated in Chinua’s book Arrow of God. It is a novel set in late 1800s as the white man came to Africa in Nigeria among the Igbo people. The chief traditional priest Ezeulu does a fatal error. He refuses to bless yams and hence the people cannot harvest them. But the white missionary senses an opportunity and offers to bless yams and hence grant an "immunity" against any traditional curse. People take yams and no curse happens. Many then defect to Christianity.

Think of class wars of the last century. The Marxists in Europe exploited the exclusion of working class to plant seed of discontent and cause revolutions.

The western societies had to veer towards a welfare system to extinguish class fires.

Left leaning governments of say Clement Atlee in the UK or Roosevelt in USA were merely welfare governments whose net effect was to establish social safety nets to make life more bearable for the excluded poor to forestall revolutions. Think of Colonialism. It discriminated against black people. The courageous ones like Jomo Kenyatta, Kwame Nkurumah and the rest sensed an opportunity to topple the existing order. The colonialists, as usual with other "blinded elites, reacted violently by arresting those leaders but history vindicated those leaders. Think of the civil rights movement. Whites discriminated and excluded blacks in USA. Martin Luther and Malcom X, among others, suffered for that cause but history vindicated them. Think of multipartysm. The Daniel Mois and Mobutu Sesesekos monopolised power and excluded many. The Kenneth Matibas and the rest spotted an opportunity and did a push back and liberated the society. Of course Moi reacted as usual through violence.

As modern generation, we must pose: Who in our society is "excluded"?

We have a vested interests in bringing that segment of persons to the mainstream society. Failure to do this, we are creating perfect conditions for social upheavals in the future. There are two possible "excluded" groups that can easily mobilise politically and hence need to be mainstreamed as a hedge for a more stable country.

First, Kenya needs to include all communities into "nation building". It is important all communities feel part of this beautiful country. Every Kenyan notwithstanding his or her ethnicity needs to be on the deck to harness economic opportunities. Communities can be dangerous if they feel excluded.

Devolution needs to be strengthened as it is an important facet that boosts social and economic inclusivity.

Second, young people are usually very dangerous in any society whenever they feel excluded. All revolutions in history have always been fuelled by disgruntled youths. That explains why all historical great political leaders were young — Jesus was a youth aged 30 when he started preaching.

Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the greatest military leaders of all time, was in his 20s when he toppled many armies in Europe.  At age 21, Mehmed II conquered Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) and became one of the most successful Muslim leader. Alexander the great created one of the largest ancient Kingdoms at the age of 25.

That's the reason why I was horrified when I saw thousands of applications by jobless educated youths seeking very few graduate internships in Murang’a County. I saw a signal of potential coming social crisis because the county cannot employ all these applicants. We must all find an urgent solution to the crisis of youth unemployment otherwise we are all setting ourselves to some social crisis into some future.

This excluded segment of bright and educated youth forms a powder keg waiting to explode. Collective action from all players is needed to help find a solution.

The writer is the Governor of Murang’a County. Email: [email protected]