Reject Ruto's wheelbarrows, President tells youth

President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta prays during a Sunday Mass at Chaka Catholic Church in Nyeri County on January 31, 2021.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • President hits out at his deputy as he seeks to rally the youth vote behind the BBI proposed law changes.
  • Meeting largely attempted to turn the tables on DP Ruto’s growing national support among young people.

The battle for the control of millions of youth, a key-voting bloc in the proposed constitutional referendum, began yesterday, with President Kenyatta asking them to reject the wheelbarrow narrative fronted by his deputy William Ruto.

Mr Kenyatta, in a meeting with Mt Kenya youth leaders, dismissed Dr Ruto’s youth empowerment drive, saying they needed jobs and should support the law change to safeguard their future.

Yesterday's meeting at Sagana State Lodge largely attempted to turn the tables on DP Ruto's growing national support among the youth.

Dr Ruto has been attempting to lure the bloc with several initiatives mainly targeting the informal sector as he spreads his “hustler” narrative powered by wheelbarrows, carts, welding machines, sewing machines, water tanks and salon equipment.

But in a passionate appeal, the Head of State indicated that he would not let Dr Ruto run away with the youth agenda.

Wheelbarrows and handouts

“They claim to know what ails the youth. If you are genuinely concerned about them, you should know they don't want wheelbarrows and handouts, but jobs,” he said.

“Why do you want us to go back to the old times where our forefathers used to push wheelbarrows for colonialists? We cannot allow that.”

The 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census data shows there are at least 35.7 million Kenyans (75.1 per cent) below 35 years, with 32.73 million (68.9 per cent) living in the rural areas.

Yesterday, Mr Kenyatta outlined measures his government has taken to empower the youth to harness their opportunities through innovation and technology.

He asked them to step out of their comfort zones and take up leadership so as to help secure their future and that of their children.

This, he continued, can only be achieved by supporting the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

In a pitch for law reforms, Mr Kenyatta elaborated proposals contained in the BBI, saying youth-owned businesses will be handed a seven-year tax break, while graduates will be given a four-year grace period on their study loans, he added.

Dirty politics

“The youth have been in a quagmire because of Helb loans. We must do away with this dirty politics of 2022 and say if you want to be a leader then you must work together with others to put in place the right policies for the betterment of the youth,” Mr Kenyatta said in the meeting that was attended by governors from central Kenya.

Additionally, Mr Kenyatta said millions of unemployed yet ignored youthful population posed a danger to the country’s peace and stability, revisiting last week’s attack of ODM leader Raila Odinga’s motorcade in Githurai market.

The President also spoke of the two-thirds gender rule, acknowledging his government was non-compliant with that law.

He revisited the recommendation by retired Chief Justice David Maraga to dissolve Parliament for failing to pass the affirmative action legislation in accordance with the Constitution.

For this reason, he supported the proposals to add more constituencies so that the youth, especially women, vie and get elected.

“And this will not be about leaders choosing their girlfriends, but having women elected because they know wananchi’s problems. We must be brutally honest with ourselves that what we need are not handouts, but institutional changes that can liberate the minds of our young people so that they become independent,” he said.

National Cohesion and Integration Commission commissioner Wangui Nyutu urged the youth to guard against being misused by politicians.