Monday, January 10, 2011

Nothing wrong with youth driving change

Sunday Nation 09 January 2011

Much has been made about the recent allegations that the American ambassador and his government were funding youth groups with the ultimate intention of “toppling” the government.

Echoes of Kanu-era accusations of envoys “interfering with Kenya’s internal affairs” are being heard, and there was even a move to censure him in Parliament before the Christmas recess.

Several self-evident points need to be made before delving further into this discussion. First, most Kenyans are young people aged 35 years or less.

Second, most Kenyans, including the youth, are dissatisfied with the way the government is running this country. Indeed, many are so fed up with their political leaders that they have vowed to throw them out at the earliest opportunity.

Third, there are many political parties in Kenya, all with the declared aim of taking and maintaining power by constitutional means. Indeed many politicians, young and old, have expressed their interest in leading the country despite the fact that there is no vacancy at the top echelons of the national executive.

Nobody has yet accused these parties of raising funds with the intention of “toppling” the government.

Contextualise allegations

Having made these opening assumptions, we can now contextualise the allegations of a youth movement out to lawfully change the government. It is pretty obvious that many youth movements and organisations exist in this country with varied aims and purposes.

Equally obvious is the fact that many have the clearly stated goal of mobilising young people to eventually effect a change in the governance of our country, hopefully for the better. It may even be true that some of these youth movements are funded by foreign governments and organisations.

None of these assertions, however, constitute a breach of the law, and most of the youth organisations have been carrying out their activities with more transparency than most political outfits.

Indeed, most political parties have been receiving funds from foreign-funded institutions since time immemorial, and it is the height of hypocrisy for our political leaders to start claiming that the US government is funding groups to destabilise the government just because they feel that their interests are threatened.

To be honest, most of the long-lasting elements of government activity are foreign-funded. Just recently, it was reported in the press that modernisation of Parliament was being “supported” by the US government and its agents, among many other “foreign” sources.

Reforms in various government ministries are still driven and largely funded by foreign governments, including reforms in the sectors of health, law and justice, roads and infrastructure and even education. Yet nobody claims that foreign governments have taken over the running of our government.

The upshot of this is that we cannot escape some degree of “foreign” involvement in our activities as long as we still rush to Western capitals with begging bowls every year.

We must accept that at independence, we were only handed nominal independence by our colonial masters while the real power remained in capitals in the West.

Instead of constantly whining, we should take advantage of the external “meddling” to improve our institutions, infrastructure and governance mechanisms.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University’s School of

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