Open letter to H.E. Kofi Atta Annan
Having been involved in steadying Kenya back to sure steps from the momentary wobbling the 2007/8 saga thrust her into, I am sure you were impressed by our conduct before, during and after our 2013 election.
You must also have taken note of the fact that, contrary to sham predictions by backstreet political analysts and pollsters, ordinary Kenyans refused to go for each others’ throats throughout the electioneering period, during and also after voting.
Now, aside from greetings and the ‘weather’ report, allow me to take you back to a matter that is no doubt in your memory but one that remains unattended since 2008.
It concerns the Agenda Four.
But, may I first bring you up to speed on what has been happening in Kenya while you were away.
Well, as you realise, we, as a people have now moved on and demonstrated to the world that we no longer need anyone’s political diapers. See, last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta presided over the opening of the 24th session of the governing council of the UN-Habitat. And in a Saul-turn-Paul moment, the president was very well received at Gigiri by the entire UN rank and file with Heads of Missions representing their countries in Kenya in tow.
Unless I read wrong, Kenya is no longer at loggerheads with the international community. Or is it?
What, however, was music to my ears at the Gigiri event was to hear the president declare that his government would increase the proportion of public contracts reserved for the youth from the previous 10pc to 30pc. Why is the information about prospects of youth empowerment an issue in this letter?
Sir, it is because Agenda # 4 of your 2008 mission to Kenya committed itself to; “…examine and address constitutional, legal and institutional reforms, poverty and inequality, youth unemployment and land reforms.”
Unfortunately, while the other three agendas – quashing violence and restoring fundamental rights and liberties, address humanitarian crisis that with regard to resettlement of internally displaced people (IDPs) and resolving the political crisis – seem to have been dealt with to some reasonable extent, Agenda #4 that touches on youth empowerment has been neglected.
Listening to President Kenyatta in his first-ever speech to the Legislative Assembly a day after his address at the UN headquarters, I confirmed that, indeed, his government has its eyes on the youth. The president, while hinting at amalgamating the Youth and Women Funds into a single entity, pledged to transform them into a real engine for growth and development.
Back to Agenda # 4. Sir, the mediation process you led settled on certain initiatives aimed at creating employment for the youth in order to avoid a recurrence of violence in our subsequent elections. That proposal specifically included generating an average of 740,000 new jobs each year between 2008 and 2012.
It also sought to revitalise and expansion of Youth Polytechnics in all districts to facilitate training of young people in technical, vocational and entrepreneurial skills to enable them to participate fully in productive activities. These are great ideas, no doubt, and the time to actualise them is now.
Another key item on the to-do list focused rehabilitation of youth empowerment centres and establish three new ones besides developing and enacting the National Youth Council Bill. Also on the list was the plan to increase youth enterprise funding and employment programmes to promote small and medium-scale enterprises as well as self-employment among the youth.
Finally, the mini-blueprint sought to also put in place mechanisms for easier access to credit and flexible collateral including co-guarantee by young people.
Sir, it is true that idle youth are a liability to an economy and that Kenyan youth are no exception.
I want to aver that there is a crosscutting feel-good mood enveloping the youth in Kenya following, not just Jubilee victory in the recently concluded Election but more so because the Uhuru administration seems to have realised that sorting out youth is where the agenda for a better Kenya should start.
If we are to see the end of disillusionment, drug and substance abuse and to hear incessant whining over misdeeds of the youth by desperate parents, then real investment in terms of time and material resources must be in place.
Jubilee, in its manifesto, seems to have thought through these critical issues comprehensively.
The hope portended for youth empowerment in the current regime is precisely what the young people of this country need at such a time as this. I pray that no one will sabotage this noble mission.
Kindly whisper to them.
BY GOR SEMELANG’O
(The writer is the Chairman, Youth Enterprise Development Fund)