#KenyaDecides2022. The tables might turn
Young people, although constituting the majority of Kenya’s population have felt marginalised in the country’s political decision-making processes for a long time, and the same could be said of women. At the general election on 9 August 2022, the tables might turn. Watch the video where Josephine Nyamai, one of the SDG-Champions from our 2021’s learning programme “Strengthening Policy Dialogue to Accelerate the SDGs” gives us her take on how young people and women increasingly let their voices be heard and make a mark and read her article below.
A look into how young people and women are influencing Kenya’s general election to be held 9th August 2022 and the formation of the country’s next government.
By Josephine Nyamai
The people of Kenya will be heading to the ballot on Tuesday the 9th of August. This election, just like the previous six general elections since the return of multiparty democracy in Kenya in 1992, is not only highly contested. It also comes at a time of severe social economic challenges and amidst a steep rise of the cost of living following the social and economic disruptions occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation and increased unemployment especially among the young people.
Young people in Kenya constitute 75 percent of the Kenyan population. Despite constituting the majority of the population, due to lack of political goodwill, systemic barriers, and general lack of belief in youth leadership, young people in Kenya have for the longest time been relegated to the periphery of decision making at all levels of political governance.
Number of registered youth voters have dropped since 2017
In the 2017 general election for example, 51% of the 19,611,423 registered voters were young people between the age of 18-34 years according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) 2017 election report. Despite the young people constituting more than half of the voters, only 314 youths were elected in office out of 3,428 youths who contested for elective positions in the 2017 general election. The low number of young people elected to leadership greatly contributed towards exclusion of young people from actively participating in decision making in government after the 2017 general election. It also created general apathy among the youth and lack of belief on whether the youth will ever be able to influence or take part in the country’s decision making processes at any level. As a result, the number of youths who have registered to vote for the August polls has unfortunately dropped by 5.27% compared to 2017.
Youth still play a role in determining the 2022 election result
However, in this election it still looks like young people will influence the results of the election and the leaders who will form the next government. There are a number of reasons behind this. Firstly, the Political Parties (Amendment) Act, 2022 ushered in new reforms in the distribution of the Political Parties Fund, which meant that 15% of the total funds allocated to parties are dependent on the number of elected candidates that are women, youths or from other special interest groups. Secondly, great efforts of state and non-state actors, stakeholders and development partners have been made in strengthening the capacity of young people to position them into leadership and governance spaces. Both have led to a desire among the young people to be agents of change, and to contest for elective positions in the 2022 general election. Since the last election, the political parties have also institutionalized youth leagues in their constitutions and given spaces for the youth to serve in party’s top decision making organs. In addition, political parties have also gone through a process where they now are actively supporting young people as candidates vying for the 6 elective positions, (Governor and Deputy Governor, Senator, Member of Parliament, County Member of Parliament (Woman Representative) and Member of County Assembly). As it stands now, more young people than ever before have been cleared by the IEBC as candidates to contest for these 6 elective positions.
Women won’t wait any longer
Besides the youth factor, importantly, the 2022 general election has demonstrated a shift in the increased number of women contestants vying for higher leadership positions. Three of the four presidential candidates have chosen women as their running mates. Hon. Martha Karua is deputizing Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga of Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Party, Ms. Justina Wamae is deputizing Prof. George Wajackoyah of Roots Party of Kenya and Ms. Ruth Mucheru is deputizing Mr. David Mwaure Waihiga of Agano Party. It’s a historic move, that has never happened before. At the same time, there has also been an increase in the number of women registered to vote from 9,217,369 in 2017 to 10,865,569 in this election. No-one knows of course how women cast their vote, but the election of any of these 3 presidential candidates should be seen as a gain for the women of Kenya and testament that indeed the people of Kenya can have confidence in the leadership of women.
Article 38 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 guarantees Kenyan citizens the right to make political choices, including the right to free, fair and regular elections. Article 56 (a) specifically requires the state to put in place affirmative action programmes to ensure that women and youth (who are considered as marginalized groups) participate and are represented in governance and other spheres of life.
The 2022 general election will therefore test Kenya’s political stability and its democracy and hopefully position young people and women at the center of driving the agenda of the government’s commitment towards facing the current uphill social economic situation and the challenges ahead.
Josephine Nyamai is Budget Coordinator, Coast Regional Budget Hub in Mombasa, Co-Founder KeBudgetTalk -Budget Literacy, advocacy and Engagement Platform and part of the Danish Embassy Youth Sounding Board (YSB).
See the videos about Danida Fellowshp Centre’s learning programne “Strengthening Policy Dialogue to Accelerate the SDGs” in 2021 that Josephine Nyamai took part in and see how they one year later, used the knowledge they had gained to create an SDG Village as part of the 2022 People’s Dialogue Festival in Kenya:
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