With the motto “unity in diversity,” Kenya’s Inter-Party Youth Forum (IPYF) is bringing together young political party activists from across the political spectrum to collaborate on solutions to the most pressing issues facing the nation’s youth, including unemployment, substance abuse and disenfranchisement.
With more than one-third of Kenyans under the age of 35, youth will play a large role in the next general election, the first since 2007 when post-election violence swept the country resulting in the deaths of more than 1,000 citizens and the displacement of 600,000. At a Nov. 19 IPYF national youth conference in Nairobi, 950 young people pledged to uphold peace and tolerance leading up to March 4 polls. The conference was organized by NDI with assistance from the United States Agency for International Development and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
As a Youth, I PLEDGE...
On Nov. 19, 950 young people from across Kenya signed this pledge, promising to uphold peace and tolerance in the next election.
I am a youth and I am a Kenyan.
I choose to respect and protect my fellow Kenyans without discrimination based on ethnic group, religion or political affiliation.
I shall not participate in any acts of violence, before, during or after the general elections.
I shall respect the rule of law and uphold the constitution. I believe in the spirit of unity as express in the National Anthem.
I WILL maintain PEACE.
As a youth, I PLEDGE.
Despite their numbers, young people have historically been left out of the political process and have little say in decision-making. IPYF was formed in 2009 as a national platform to promote constructive political participation among youth across party lines; the forum held a national launch with the NDI board of directors in 2010. Since then, IPYF has engaged more than 1,500 young people in the political process through national and local outreach sessions to raise awareness about their rights and responsibilities under Kenya’s new constitution, ratified in 2010. Youth attending these sessions share some of their most pressing concerns, such as lack of national identification cards, which are required for voter registration, and high levels of unemployment.
After supporting the forum at the national level, NDI is helping IPYF expand across Kenya by establishing forums in each of the country’s 47 counties. The forums aim to strengthen political awareness and participation among youth ahead of the March elections focusing on three themes: Kenya’s new constitution, which includes special provisions for youth; advocacy for credible and transparent elections; and campaigning against negative ethnic politics.
“Our expectation is that... all the youths [will] speak in one voice, to have tolerance for one another irrespective of their party affiliation,” said one participant when the Nairobi county forum launched in Kibera, the largest slum in the capital.
During a launch event in Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, youth participants identified local militia groups controlling politics as a unique threat in the region. They also discussed widespread unemployment and substance abuse. The youth talked about how to address these problems, such as drafting a letter to local authorities to encourage them to enforce drug and alcohol laws.
As the elections draw closer, NDI continues to support IPYF to encourage peaceful political engagement among Kenyan youth through events such as the national youth conference and by launching more county forums across the country.
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Published Nov. 23, 2012