Legal clinic: It’s time to empower the youth in Kenya


Demonstrators engage in looting and destruction of properties of the Expressway along Mombasa Road at Mulolongo on July 12, 2023 during the anti-Government protest.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

There is a growing concern for this country to reflect on young people’s space regarding the course and discourse of development. Every 15th July, the global village of nations on all continents commemorates World Youth Skills Day. It is a day when private and public sectors and communities celebrate the dialogue that emphasises the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work, and entrepreneurship.

The sustainable development goals emphasise the leave-no-one behind (LNOB) principle to ensure that the world remembers to recognise, promote and protect the right of all people to be developed, participate in, and enjoy development equitably. LNOB, as shared by the United Nations, compels Nations to create opportunities to address multiple and intersecting discrimination and inequalities that tend to undermine the agency of people as rights holders.

The Constitution of Kenya in Article 10, regarding national values and principles of governance, binds all state organs, public officers, and all persons to uphold actions that support human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination, and protection of the marginalised. This is mandatory.

Moreover, Article 55 behooves the state to take measures, including affirmative action programs, to ensure that the youth access relevant education and training, have opportunities to associate, be represented, and participate in political, social, economic, and other spheres of life. Equally subjective but important is their access to employment and protection from harmful cultural practices and exploitation. However, the intensity and ferocity demonstrated by the youth who were seen destroying infrastructural systems, particularly bringing down part of the Nairobi expressway and burning tyres along major roads, besides angrily pelting stones at law enforcement officers, should call this country to order. In the broadest interpretation of Article 56, the youth become part of the marginalised groups. Many young people are relegated to the margins of development. Even as successive political systems and leaders since 2010 recline in fulfilling Article 98 Clause (1) paragraph (c) on youth representation, the misconception that this is synonymous with powering youth to access opportunities is legally misleading.

The law has given the leadership of all sectors and communities an expressway to create opportunities that invite the youth onto the decision-making table and into development and expand their scope to access services that enhance the humanity in them to initiate, co-create, re-create, escalate, and ring-fence resources for sustainable development course in this country. This is likely difficult unless the inherent dignity and stakes of young people are religiously adhered to, as provided for in Articles 28 and 55 of the Constitution. The events of and within mass demonstrations in the recent past that depict the youth being maimed and others dying while trying to raise their voice of what is likely a genuine cry of neglect is disheartening, yet a reflection of a society so disgraced to downgrade humanity.

This country risks sinning by shutting the youth out of public goods, which is an insult to the United Nation’s Millenium (General Assembly Resolution 55/2) Declaration on the Right of Development which in Article 2 clause (3) furnishes States the Right and duty to formulate appropriate national development policies that aim at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population, based on their active, free and meaningful participation in development. Clause (1), in emphasising the place of people in development, recognises that every human person is the central subject of development and should be an active participant and beneficiary of the Right to development.

The desire to ensure that the youth have relevant market-responsive knowledge, skills, attitude, and expertise should lead the country to re-evaluate the subsequent celebratory days, international Criminal Justice Day and Nelson Mandela Day, observed on the 17th and 18th of every July, respectively. Nelson Mandela Day is often a moment given to each one of us to do our part in making this world a better place. The world cannot be a better place when International Criminal Justice Day constantly reminds us of the many incarcerated youths languishing in prisons instead of building their careers and families.

Mr Mukoya has over 17 years’ experience in the social justice sector.