Ballot Series | 2022 Young Political Firebrands, Genuine or hyper Ambition?

It is clear that in this 2022 election, Kenya as a whole is witnessing hundreds if not thousands of young people on the ballot. From ward positions to parliamentary positions and some taking a shot at the gubernatorial contest.

I would like to believe that this is not just a hysterical wave but a case of genuine ambition. Voi and Taita Taveta county’s case isn’t any different.  The scenario prompts me to pause, switch my lenses and zoom in slightly.

Foremost, allow me to debunk the notion that, young people are neither ready nor sufficient to lead or govern.

History presents us with fantastic examples to cement our belief that regardless of age anyone could befit a position of power or leadership and with a substantial sense of direction anyone can confidently steer masses on a pathway to progress.

For the believers, David’s story is a classic example; a young and unexpected choice of a character that rose to lead and govern the great nation of Israel, … as KING!

Compare and contrast, United States, the world’s superpower is currently under the leadership of Joe Biden at 79years of age, a position that was once held by a 43-year-old John F. Kennedy back in 1961.

Africa has born the tag of notorious lifetime presidents, leaders sticking to power and eventually drowning in it.

However, the continent equally has case scenarios where young turks have been wishfully tested with the top offices in the land whereas others have selfishly tasted power and got drunk.

Valentine Stressar, Former Sierra leone President at age 24

Notably, Marien Ngouabi, John Mbagaza and David Dako led Congo, Burundi and Central Republic respectively just at the age 30. Joseph Kabila and Mohammad Gadhafi assumed office as presidents of DRC and Libya at the ages of 29 and 27 respectively.

Surprisingly, Africa’s youngest president was Valentine Strasser, taking over the Sierra Leone leadership at only 24 years of age, albeit via coup.

Interestingly, Africa’s famous ‘loverboy’ King Mswati III took over the reign of Swaziland Leadership at only age 18.

And well, some of the above might have been uncouth, undemocratic and some cultural but they still assert that leadership can be bestowed on anyone.

Much closer home, His excellency Steven Kipsang is serving as Nandi county’s governor just in his thirties. Hon. John Paul Mwirigi was surprisingly elected as member of parliament at only age 23 in 2017; 2 more clear cases that reassures us that indeed ambitions ought not be bound by time.

Besides, don’t they say, time is always right to do right?

Didas Mzirai, a decorated National youth leader and Social Entrepreneur engaging Taveta Residents

In voi and Taita Taveta county at large, we see a couple of young names, firebrands determined to squeeze the way into the political leadership front row. Either as MCAs, MPs, Senators and some nominated as running mates.

Notably, and also as observed in the star article by Solomon Muingi a while ago, Didas Mzirai a prolific social entrepreneur, CEO of Mucho Mangoes LTD is determined to unseat Hon. Naomi Shaban who has served Taveta constituency for 20 years; first getting into parliament when Didas was just a teenager. John Righa Mwachofi and Albanus Muli are seeking to replace Senator Mwaruma and Hon. Alfred Mlolwa, both old enough to be their parents.

Rogers Ng’oo, Idris Mohammed and Stanley Makeo among others are committed to take over the reign of Bura, Marungu and Saghalla wards respectively. And there are still quite a number of young political firebrands in the 2022 race.

A vocal Rodgers Ngoo, at a past UDA rally in Voi CBD

This is where I adjust my lens.

Beyond the name and free democratic rights to vie, the first item that clobbers their ambition is lack of experience and a track record, which is of course believable.

Most of these peers, and some my good friends, the most they have is varsity or college student leadership experience, personal enterprises, some nominative positions, some, Junior corporate management, a CBO responsibility here or a youth association duty there, among others.

The above is not to demean their contributions or milestones. Most of them are key voices, fantastic mobilizers and a couple have been at the frontline of social activism whether in these digital streets … ama pale ground.

Idris Mohamed, a renowned activist at a past demo following Marungu residents’ eviction a while back

It is incredible and phenomenal, if anything we all start from somewhere.

Resource, is key in politics, and the simplest definition is Money, any campaign is a serious investment and unless you are from an affluent background, political campaigns will unforgivingly choke anyone financially.

Lack of a robust professional career hasn’t guaranteed these folks any serious savings worth investing in such a venture. Probably most have resorted to fundraising in order to progressively finance the different tenets of a proper campaign.

Albanus Muli charges youth at a past rally on his campaign trail

It has been evident, in their campaign materials that have been advancing from the amateurish states to more professional outlooks from photoshoots to posters, banners, etc. Serious motor branding, billboards, thousands of T-shirts maybe a long shot for most and that’s why, they are visibly capitalizing on social media and digital outlets for traction and to get their message out there. And they have been doing it so well, with hourly updates, posting every single engagement pale ground.

‘I attended…’ is the dominant phrase in their last 20 or 30 social media updates.

And of course, It goes without saying, a handshake photo with their party leaders are significantly cherished as wallpapers, cover and profile photos unmistakably.

I hope this really pays off.

TTC Senatorial aspirant, John Righa Mwachofi, addresses a crowd at a past rally

Preferential Party treatment has equally thrown a couple of the young Turks to the sidelines with some starting off as key party proponents in the opening stages of the campaign only for them to lose the ticket at the take-off station.

Characteristically determined, a good number of the young political firebrands have resolved to board the independent bus and they say ‘liwe liwalo, kaende kaende’.

At a superficial level, possible reasons float.

In for the hype

Well, it’s a wave and anyone can jump on it. without any clear focus, plan or agenda but still it ought to be a good political if not life experience.

Possible financial gain

Parties tend to finance promising candidates especially those that bare their flags in rebel zones either just to scale visibility, stir contrast, build interest or simply just be present for the sake of it. Perhaps this explains why our young Turks incline to the UDA party led by Dp Ruto who has perennially been unwelcomed in the region.

Possible nominative positions

Loyalty and efforts in politics are often rewarded even in the event of loss and therefore for some young Turks they would like to confidently loose but hope to win opportunities at party levels through handpicking to guarantee party continuity in the region or for some they’ll get nominated to various positions of representation whether at the county assembly, parliament, senatorial chambers, parastatals or political appointment slots in the county government.

Stanley Makeo, campaigning on PAA ticket for the Saghalla Ward MCA position

In to win

To be fair enough, for most, you can feel the passion and the spirit, you can see the drive and consistency and it wouldn’t hurt to share in their ambitions and bestow leadership upon their potential.

In the upcoming elections, they might be rejects that would have otherwise been cornerstones to our progress henceforth.

I look forward to having a conversation with most of them in a separate special feature to establish what inspires their motivation, why now, the experience so far and what the future portends.

In the meantime, all the best folks.

The genuine will & courage to actively participate is already a win for us! GO! GO! GO!

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