• Young people expect jobs and decent livelihoods.
• Woe unto the political leadership if these expectations are not met.
On the day the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury, Henry Rotich, and his co-accused were arraigned in court on charges of corruption and released on bond, a group of young people convened a press conference somewhere in Nairobi and issued some ultimatums to the government and the political leadership at large.
As much as their message was not covered by the legacy media, it got significant attention on various social media platforms. The message from the young people to the political leadership was loud, angry, but very clear—“get this country back to the correct trajectory or we as young people shall take action the best way we know”.
During the said press conference, the speakers expressed their support for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s war on corruption and warned anybody out to undermine that war of dire consequences. But as much as they supported the ongoing fight, the young people also expressed their frustration with the state of the economy, pointing out that they want to see some tangible results accruing from the war on corruption.
According to them, the dividends of the war on corruption must be an improved economy that guarantees better livelihoods for all Kenyans—without these dividends, the war on corruption will be a total waste of time and resources.
I had occasion to listen to these young people and as much one could easily dismiss them as a bunch of busybodies, they, nonetheless, conveyed a message that should not be taken for granted.
Given the levels that sleaze has reached in Kenya, the ambassador went further to suggest that we should abandon the word “corruption” and instead use such words as “looting” or “thievery” in order to bring out the magnitude of graft more forcefully since the word “corruption” has become too mild and flattery.
US ambassador Kyle McCarter has described corruption in Kenya as “a crisis that is undermining the country’s future.” The envoy warned that corruption threatens Kenya’s economic growth, provision of government services, including healthcare and security.
And given the levels that sleaze has reached in Kenya, the ambassador went further to suggest that we should abandon the word “corruption” and instead use such words as “looting” or “thievery” in order to bring out the magnitude of graft more forcefully since the word “corruption” has become too mild and flattery.
Indeed, Kenyans of good conscience agree that corruption is largely to blame for the socioeconomic challenges that the common people face today. Corruption is a social danger because it feeds organised crime—we have seen intelligence as well as investigative media reports about how some security officers have taken bribes at border crossing points and allowed into the country dangerous criminals like al Shabaab.
Corruption is a radicaliser because it destroys the people’s faith in legitimate authority—many of us remember findings of a baseline survey conducted by the Aga Khan University indicating that more than 80 per cent of young people in Kenya were willing to engage in corruption so long as they don’t get caught. Above all, corruption is a destroyer of opportunities because it discourages honesty and accountable investment.
Aware of the dangers of corruption, and now that the government is taking commendable steps to contain it, the question that young people are asking is—“will our lives improve after we eradicate corruption?”
Both the government and political leadership must be prepared to answer this question because young people are likely to explode if the war on corruption does not pay some dividends. The youth expect jobs and decent livelihoods to accompany the fight against corruption and woe unto the political leadership if these expectations are not met.
For a long time, the poor state of Kenya’s economy was blamed on poor institutions of governance. Kenyans were told that if they fixed the governance crisis, then theirs would be a land flowing with milk and honey. The enactment of the 2010 Constitution was touted as the panacea for the governance crisis. But the question remains—are we better off since the new Constitution came into force? There are no prizes for guessing the answer to this question.
In this regard, as the country’s leadership tightens the screws on the lords of corruption, it should also keep in mind that the “young and restless” population expects to earn some dividends—and these should come in the form of job opportunities or other forms of economic empowerment that guarantee them a decent future.
Deputy chairperson of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims