• The self-styled reformer has the spine of a medieval Viking.
• Young people are angry elsewhere in Africa, but not in Kenya.
Activist Boniface Mwangi it goes without saying is a man endowed with a repertoire of talents. Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga thinks of him as a rebel with a course and that his ilk is just what the Continent needs to overthrow status quo.
The self-styled reformer has the spine of a medieval Viking not to mention that he is very good with lenses and words. While the former has earned him local and international acclaim, the latter has seen him hosted by the State a couple of times.
But when last week he was hounded for questioning by Central Police station sleuths over suspicion of plotting to stoke civil unrest, I chuckled. I mean, that was giving the guy too much credit.
Young people are angry elsewhere in Africa, but not in Kenya. They have challenged and even changed governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and recently in North Sudan. The disillusioned yet educated, the uneducated and poorly educated young people continue to take to the streets in various African cities because their economies do not offer them anything gainful to do so they are angry – especially because the politicians and bureaucrats are stealing the resources that would have gone to creating opportunities.
They are therefore inclined to take down establishments that aren’t working for them. However in Kenya, they are content with being keyboard extremists. This in no way means the young men and women in Kenya do not have reasons to be aggrieved with the powers that be. Their former voice against the oppressive regime has entered into camaraderie of convenience with his erstwhile political nemesis. Today, they profess undying loyalty to each other and even tag along to foreign trips to borrow huge chunks of money that often disappear into the purses of a few. Headlines are often awash with billions that cannot be accounted for. The president addresses the runway corruption depending on his moods. This month he “tightens the noose on graft lords” and the next, he swears not to “indulge in vigilante justice” as the press would quote.
Tribalism lurks with careless abandon, State appointments are pegged on the same and key positions are dished to political rejects. The Judiciary under the soft spoken man of God who has more regard for religion than the law stokes infamy for chicanery and ricketiness in unparalleled measures.
So we are making do, surviving, pushing and trying to eke a living. We have been forced to improvise livelihoods outside of dominant economic and familial frameworks. The under-privileged young women employed as domestic workers by the middle and upper class get to see those fancy cars, the expensive home appliances like large TVs, Fridges comparable to the ones they see on Oga movies and they you become more acutely aware of economic exclusion. Others are using their sexuality as a means of gaining a livelihood by engaging in intimate relationships with wealthy and powerful men (the Sponsor menace) for money, gifts and access to fashionable goods.
The young men have resorted to gambling hoping to hit jackpots. Others are being radicalized to join Terror groups where they are told their lives are being given meaning. Unemployed and underemployed graduates are taking up jobs usually performed by less educated youths. Large supermarkets call for internship and hundreds of Masters Holders show up, tottering under the weight of empty pockets vis-à-vis responsibilities and expectations.
The realities of their daily lives expose the gap between the promise of the democratic discourse on fairness, equity, prosperity, and their existence of marginalization, exclusion and lack of opportunities. Young Kenyans are becoming increasingly aware of the complicity between local and global forces that enable corruption, protect impunity for those in power in their countries, and limit the capacity of African states to uphold the social contract-read China.
That is why the youth are hungry for radical leaders. In South Africa, Julius Malema’s EFF might have come third in the polls, but the dismal performance of ANC and DC while EFF gained is an augury that firebrand politicians calling for action and not the ‘tumetenga, tutafanya’ rhetoric are gaining ground. In Uganda, Uncle Museveni’s guerrilla tactics on Wine has not stopped thousands if not millions of youth from being inebriated by his people power chants.
In Kenya, the hunger is perhaps not manifest becauseone; there is no leader with the tangible moral wherewithal to stir a revolution. The activistsrabble-rousing might be doing so for cameras and donor funding. The leaders we compare to the likes of Juju are low key sycophants, establishment apologists, populists who have blood on their hands and dirty money.
Two- the youth are every inch Kenyan. Meaning their troubles might unite them but the bond of tribulations is not as potent as the power of tribalism that has torn them apart. They are more drawn to their tribes and political demi-gods and as its stands, they are on social media either singing paean of their favorite politicians for peanuts in return or hissing at each other over whom between dynasties and hustlers will ascend to the throne in 2022 with useless hash tags to boot.
Yes they are angry. But they can live with their tribulations as long as their tribe is part of the government or is on the right trajectory to grab power via the tin-god. So relax Mr. President. There will be no revolution in Kenya and in Malema’s words when he sang ‘shoot the Boer,’- at least for now.
Scophine Otieno, political science student at UoN