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The Voting Experience for Youth in Kenya

If ever there was a confusing time for youth in Kenya, this would be it. Kenyan youth are largely informed and very opinionated, what with the age of technology, the digital shift and the rising influence of the high court of public opinion. Most youth are voting for the first time this year and this presents them with a large problem. As it is, most youth between the age of 18 and 25 have rushed for positions as election officials. It is a rush for quick and easy to earn cash, a move that will cost most their constitutional right to vote, seeing as most officials don’t get to vote unless posted in stations where they are registered voters. As such, a great percentage of the youth will not get to vote. That being said, we can’t take away this scenario from the youth and the election: inadequate civic education. The youth largely solicit their information online. However, the election commission has not been vigilant enough, with focus only on television adverts and radio announcements, based on the assumption that every Kenyan is glued to those devices. This leaves the country with youth who have no idea about where to put what and how to go about the entire process.

One underrated fear is that the youth will be too tired or simply lazy to vote. Campaigns are largely exhausting and the youth have spent the last two months being used as mouthpieces for politicians, because, energy and agility. The election day might most likely find most of these youth drunk on campaign money or simply tired. Even worse, some youth may decide to be social media voters and online opinion-shapers as opposed to going to the polling stations and casting the votes Still, that does not present the larger issue; that the options the youth are faced with electing into office. At the moment, most aspirants are above 45 years of age, way over the youth age. This provides a large divide and generational gap. The youth are now tasked with the not so interesting job of either recycling leaders or downright settling for anything that goes. The two presidential front-bearers are the same old ones, with the same narrative and slightly adjusted manifestos. It is a sad tale of multiple choices that look too much alike.

Doom and damnation aside, it is also a great time for youth in Kenya. Some courageous visionary youth have risen. In the capital city, faces are fresh and more women can be seen. If that is not liberalization of politics, I don’t know what is. The election has also provided the youth with a rare opportunity to kill tribal-infused politics and redefine politics. That has been made possible with the advent of independent candidates and the non-partisan mentality where people no longer vote as six-piece. The six-piece idea was witnessed in the last election where most people only voted in people from one party. Things have taken a much more positively informed turn this time. Looking back at the campaigns and the general public air, it is very possible to vote in candidates from different parties. For instance, one does not have to support a senatorial candidate on the same ticket as the president or any other candidate. Change is indeed inevitable. The youth, as earlier stated are more informed and more aware, which has brought to birth opinion shapers and makers. It is a beautiful thing, seeing the youth own their voice and amplify it. As usual, opportunity doesn’t knock twice. The Canaan and Joshua rhetoric that has been employed by presidential candidate, Raila Odinga has largely provided the youth with fodder with great jokes, memes and even games on Facebook. This makes the usual tension-filled process less obsessive for everyone. Most importantly, the youth have played a significant role in this election by preaching peace. Peace walks and marches have been witnessed all over the country, a beautiful picture, no doubt. It is surely a great time to be part of the voting community in Kenya. It is an even greater time to be a voting youth in Kenya.

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