As the most progressive ideology in the human history, democracy has its fundamental characteristic as competition. Ideally, it is competition over who will help the people govern themselves well and on their own. However, in the Kenyan political arena, competition has been on trivial, not vital issues and to many politicians, it is a do or die affair, so important that they are willing to go to extreme lengths violently inciting the citizens against one another, something that should be condemned by all means. While competition is a necessary political factor, of late this front has majorly been between the youth versus the old guard and hence, the focus of this article.
Recently I happened to attend a youthful political forum and I was taken aback by some of the sentiments from the youths which I will not mention in this article lest I discourage them from a good cause that I still maintain they are in pursuit of. Interestingly enough, I couldn’t help to note that the youths have finally realized the important space they occupy in the society and most importantly, the need to use this space to develop the whole society at large has risen to great if not the greatest level. Evidently from this observation one thing is clear: that the youths want their voice heard in shaping their future and aspirations. Indeed this is a positive growth that should be encouraged especially in a young democracy like Kenya. It is in this regard that I chose to render this treatise just to ensure my voice doesn’t go unheard on this quest for prosperity.
Foremost to appreciate is that we live in a constitutional democracy and cornerstone to leadership is the idea of universal suffrage enshrined under the provisions of political rights. In addition to the right to be registered as a voter and to vote, the constitution gives every adult citizen the right to be a candidate for any public office and this we must emphasize include both young and old. In living true to this provision Kenyan youths need to appreciate that leadership is not for a selected few in the society but for anyone who is willing to take the society forward not forgetting that before the law everyone is entitled to equal treatment.
The law having set the ground rules, placing both the youths and the elderly on an equal footing, it is safe to say that youthful leadership is a viable alternative. In encouraging this kind of leadership the whole society needs to be keen to give priority only to those youths who present good agendas for good governance and development of the Kenyan community. It should not just be the case of youthful leadership but also sound youthful leadership. In the same fashion, we must countenance that even the old are entitled to leadership and development of their aspirations in the society remembering that their voice is equally important and at times weighty than those of the youths. The import of this, therefore, is that when a better voice is raised from the elderly it must be given consideration.
Political leadership comes with serious political responsibilities and in striving to attain this quest it cannot be gainsaid that the youths need adequate preparation for the arduous task of leadership and many at times this preparation can only be given by the elderly or those who have been there for a while. Any successful leader would tell you that leadership is not a walk in the park as it involves the great responsibility of making this difficult system of government work for the benefit of the people and at times this entails dealing with serious issues ranging from finance to security, not to forget constant media scrutiny and unnecessary witch-hunting from the envious competitors. As Bob Graham, a former U.S senator and long-time politician put it “being a politician in a democracy is one of the highest calling”, clearly political leadership is not just a job for any Tom Dick and Harry but only the dedicated ones.
In conclusion, democracy dictates leadership to be the preserve of the whole society in general in other words the people, accordingly every aspiring leader whether young or old must first appreciate that attainment of one societal voice is elementary to quality leadership and in effect good governance. True to the old biblical adage that the glory of the youths lies in their strength and the beauty of the old age in gray hair, clearly none can have both and for perfect balance to be attained both the young and the old must work together to shape their future. Our jurisdiction being a constitutional democracy it can’t be overemphasized that gone are the days when winning was about being different because in today’s society winning is about coming together as one and sharing in one voice, the voice of unity and prosperity.
Noah Kiplagat is a Legal Researcher at Savic Consultants and Co-Founder Mukami Kiplagat Foundation.