Mashujaa Day, formerly Kenyatta Day, is a day set to celebrate the legends who lived and fought for the independence of our great country. This year, these celebrations were accompanied by an appreciation of the Kenyan youth’s role in strengthening the country’s peace. Undoubtedly, peace and security remain the essential pillars of any prosperous society and these can be built and maintained by the national police, military, or the ministry of defence.
However, there is a need to recognize the increasing efforts by the youth who continue to prove themselves as influential in the promotion of peace and security. The majority of the population in Kenya is covered by the youth with over 75.1% of its citizens under the age of 35 which represents 35.7 million Kenyans as of 2019. The story of Kenya’s progress in many ways is owed to its young, vibrant, and dynamic segment of the population.
Across various counties, young Kenyans are setting up grassroots initiatives that focus on community dialogue, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding. In May 2022, the Kenya Youth Manifesto was launched, by the youth, with the mission to amplify the voices of the young people as active and influential stakeholders in the civic, democratic, and economic spaces in Kenya. Following their understanding of the local dynamics and intricacies of their regions, the interventions they take on become more relatable and effective. The Kenyan youth have gone over and beyond to harness the power of social media to champion peace.
They have mastered the art of curating content that fosters peace through online campaigns and utilizing platforms that celebrate diversity. During the 2023 African Climate Summit, the youth in Kenya were actively engaged in the audience and panels to discuss issues on climate change, its effects on the continent, and matters surrounding climate financing. Moreover, young leaders are increasingly making their presence felt in local and national governance processes. They are actively engaged in decision-making processes and ensure the concerns of their generation are addressed thereby fostering a sense of inclusion and reducing feelings of disenfranchisement.
In the spaces of building peace, the youth often approach issues with a fresh lens, not held back by traditions but with perspectives motivated to create a future alongside the traditions they are brought up with unburdened by historical biases. Their innovation and willingness to challenge existing systems that perpetrate conflict foster new paths for peacebuilding initiatives. The youth recognize that lasting security is not just about prevention but also rehabilitation and hereby have been seen to take up youth-led initiatives that are focused on rehabilitating individuals previously lured to extremist groups. These initiatives offer alternative paths filled with hope and purpose, especially by utilizing creative arts and sports.
The youth have the most at stake when it comes to the future and as such are highly motivated to advocate for a peaceful and secure world. Although the impact of the country’s youth is uncontested, their journey and efforts face a fair share of challenges such as limited resources, occasional skepticism from older generations, and the complexities of socio-political contexts.
Governments and non-governmental organizations must invest resources in building youth’s capacity for peace and security initiatives by dedicating resources and skills to them. They should also pave the way for youth engagement and participation in accountable national policy-making that ensures their voices are heard and acted upon.
The Country’s Vision 2030 highlights that no society can gain social cohesion if significant sections of the population live in poverty. It includes equity as a recurrent principle in economic, social, and political programmes. Unfortunately, as the youth are putting up tremendous efforts to build and maintain the country’s peace, they remain largely unemployed. During these celebrations, considering the tough economic times the nation is facing, the youth rallied together to seek the government’s support for their role in the country’s economy as well as their outstanding efforts in championing peace.
Kenya’s youth are evidently seizing each day without hesitation. Truthfully, in their hands lie the hope, resilience, and secure future of the country, On 20th October, Mashujaa day, H. E William Ruto, in his speech reiterated the government’s obligation and duty to the unemployed youth noting that, “… their complicated pursuit of livelihood can potentially complicate our more stable prospects…”
It is therefore important that as we remember those who once fought for our country’s independence in the past, we ought to celebrate those who are fighting for the country’s present and future and support them where they are at. Let us not hesitate to spotlight and honour the efforts of young peace and security champions by offering them platforms, and opportunities, and inspiring countless others.
Mutanu Kyalo is a Graduate MA International Security