Youth form a majority among potential voters in Kenya’s upcoming election, writes Brian Dan Migowe, 26, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Kenya, but have a reputation for not voting. Here, he looks at possible reasons and repercussions related to the missed opportunity.
So why don’t young people vote?
There are plenty of millennials who are completely oblivious about the election process, the importance of voting and the gains from it. More often than not, you will never convince them that the voting process is as important as current technological advancements.
But it seems that when election season rolls around, the lazy stereotype starts to show its true colours. By estimates of January 2017, the aggregate number of the registered voters in Kenya was expected to be 15 million, with about 80 per cent of this population below the age bracket of 35 years old.
So what’s holding the youth from going to the poll? Is it really laziness? Is it the candidates? Issues advocated for? These questions will remain unanswered until there is an understanding of the path of millennials and their voting pattern.
Contrary to popular belief, the youth don’t really hate politicians or politics. With the age of the Internet, this is an informed generation like none before. Everything is at their fingertips. Ease of access to videos, websites, social media and general information makes this generation by far the best informed and aware of its surroundings and the community. The youth are one of the biggest segments of the Kenyan population and are just on the cusp (or already in) adulthood. But many think that their vote doesn’t count and politics isn’t relevant in their lives.
Most fail to realise that they have taxes taken out of their income and there are laws be obeyed. They ought not to take the liberties accorded to them for granted, and should exercise the right to vote for individuals best suited to govern. It’s preposterous for anyone to say that politics isn’t relevant in their lives, because politics truly does have a place in nearly every aspect of our lives. The few old, the wise generation, will always say that if you don’t vote in an election, you simply lose your right to complain about the outcome of the process. At no better time is our right to vote more useful than in expressing the freedom of choosing whoever best meets the expectations of an ideal leader. This is the year for Kenyans. Constitutionalism will be the exercise of our political rights as denoted and protected under article 38 of the Kenyan constitution.
The youth are somewhat more upbeat than older adults about Kenya’s future. And yes, like many, I share in the belief of a better tomorrow, a better Kenya, yet to be achieved politically. The question is when will the youth get political emancipation?
The voter registration period has brought out the intolerable characters amongst us: vices that hinder democratic space development; elements of voter bribery. Yes, voting is a right in our country, but it is also a great privilege that a lot of people have to fight — and even die — for. The democratic process does not work if we are not connected and doing something. Soliciting for a bribe to be registered as a voter is far worse, more than not registering in entirety. A bad vice is avoided in any case, but at whose cost?
There are countries in this world in which voting is not a citizen’s right. And there are people in our country fighting to become voting citizens. The youth have one life, and privileged enough to be born citizens of the Republic of Kenya, they should let their voice be heard – no matter who is listening.
This is not only a call for the youth; politicians need to take some action as well. Political maneuvering has left this lost generation and from this likewise stems bad leadership .
The younger generation of which I am part bears no faith in populism. Many feel burned that voting for a populist has not resulted in the sort of changes they wanted. Anytime a cause that people believe in becomes popular, the blow back from society tear it at the seams. As a result young people feel less important. We feel that there is no hope that we could ever organise in a way that would change anything. The palpable power that we should feel as a major Kenyan youth voting block has been sapped away by both circumstance and design.
Thus millennials exhibit the titular traits: apathy, frustration, ignorance.
As we wait for statistical data on registered voters in comparison to registered adulthood population eligible to vote, let’s endeavour to learn from the lesson that this comparison will bring out.
About me: I am a law student with a passion for writing and youth advocacy. I observe people, nature, the environment and daily life and am enthusiastic about sharing them on pen and paper.
I am an open-minded individual who acknowledges the diversity of the world’s population. Sometimes I am awed by how life plays out, but in writing I make the story as I want it. My hobbies are swimming and indoor games.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/
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