Change how you deal with Gen Z or perish, Orengo warns politicians

James Orengo

Siaya Governor James Orengo before the County Accounts Committee at KICC, Nairobi County on Thursday, June 8, 2023. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Siaya Governor James Orengo has fired a warning shot at the political class, insisting that they must change their tact in dealing with the current youth impasse in the country.

Describing the recent protests by youths as a call for good governance, he said it was a wake-up call to the political class.

Orengo warned that failure by politicians or political parties to heed the youth's demands could lead to an uncontrolled situation.

He told President William Ruto that the Gen Zs were not the "ordinary politicians".

Quoting former Tanzanian President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Orengo, who has been at the forefront of constitutional reforms for most of his political life, said all the youth wanted was change and they were ready to have it with or without the support of the political class.

"Nyerere once advised the CCM party, and I'm paraphrasing, '(Kenyans) are looking for change and if they don't get change through the political parties, they will look for it without and outside the political parties and push their agenda outside the normal structures'," Governor Orengo said.

His sentiments came at a time when the political class, led by President Ruto and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga is facing a backlash over the proposed multi-sectoral national dialogue aimed at addressing issues raised by the youths.

Governor Orengo believes that the current Kenya Kwanza government is dysfunctional and should not remain in power.

“What the demonstrations by the youth showed was that in full consciousness, it is difficult to do business with a government that is not serving your interest. The Kenya Kwanza government constitutes an existential threat to the well-being of Kenyans and that is what has cost it its legitimacy,” said Governor Orengo.

He told Nation.Africa that there was no way in the history of Kenya, even during the colonial era, that protesters would have managed to break into Parliament and other key government buildings as happened a few weeks ago.

The Siaya County boss, and a close ally of Odinga, said the current call by the youth and Kenyans in general is not for reform but for revolution because they feel they are not being listened to.

“The language Kenyans are now talking about is a revolution because they feel what this Kenya Kwanza government is implementing is half the measures they ought to, yet still spend lavishly and boast about it. This is why Kenyans have a complete lack of confidence in President Ruto’s government,” said Orengo.

He also took a swipe at the head of state for accusing foreign nations of interfering and sponsoring the protests.

President Ruto had warned unnamed foreign powers against sponsoring chaos in Kenya.

“Ruto saying foreign powers are behind the chaos is a tactic that has been used by the previous regimes and did not work. These youths are not asking for a state with a different image but one that respects the constitution and the rule of law,” said Orengo.

The Siaya County boss has also offered to represent two youths from Rongai – Joseph Ndung'u and Dennis Munini – who were arrested during the anti-government protests and are accused of robbery.

“The police want to file trumped-up charges against these defenceless young Kenyan patriots for taking part in lawful demonstrations. Being a governor does not stop me from chewing gum and climbing the stairs at the same time. I am taking up the cases,” said Orengo.

He added that abductions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and prosecutions, and extrajudicial killings are characteristic of a repressive state.