When President Paul Kagame graced the studios of Rwanda Broadcasting Agency TV he was asked to expound on the comments he had earlier made urging young people to join politics.
As expected, the question came from a young person. In a country like Rwanda where young people have been given a chance to take charge in so many sectors, one should not be asking for further instructions on how to join the political space.
Rwanda like the rest of the East African countries has a rather young population. This alone means the youth have their work cut out. I know for years young people are told that they are the leaders of tomorrow, a tomorrow that never really comes if you stay sitting on your hands waiting on luck. There are some people who harbour the thinking that old folks will just wake up and hand responsibilities to young people. Forget it.
The young people have to create influence among their circles and grow this influence over time that when pitted against the old the young people have what Mutahi Ngunyi called the tyranny of numbers. Instead of straining your necks looking at old people and waiting for them to give way, you should be looking at your peers and trying to see whether you can add any value to their lives at your stage.
In Uganda for example, popular musician Bobi Wine (real name Robert Kyagulanyi) won an election to become the Member of Parliament for Kyadondo East. His election created such a huge buzz that even international media took interest in it with many even wrongly referring to him as a reggae artist. Many people young people can learn from his story as a young man who has used his talent to create influence among his peers.
Although many know him for his music, he also made an effort to always put his name to efforts of social justice. This gradually built his profile not only as someone who cares but one who was able to deliver change if given the chance. I remember the time he compelled the city council authorities to fix a sink hole on a road that had proven dangerous to road users.
Kenya has Boniface Mwangi who also over the years has been creating a bubble of influence by fighting for social justice and speaking out about corruption. Bonny as he if fondly known is now contesting to be the Member of Parliament for Starehe in the coming general elections. Both Bobi Wine and Bonny have taken time to study the prevailing political dynamics and decided to start a new narrative for their peers. Bobi Wine contested as an independent candidate while Boniface Mwangi ignored the older (used loosely given the high political party turnover in Kenyan politics) Kenyan parties to start his own outfit called Ukweli Party.
What this points to is that, where the youth feel unwanted especially where parties are led by a bunch of old people not willing to pass on responsibilities, then young people have to curve their own path. What matters is that they appeal to their own while at it. If the appeal is there then it should be the young people urging other young people to register and vote instead of always complaining on social media as the stereotype goes these days.
Young people all over the region should put in the work because opportunities and success will happen regardless of their age. I must confess that I was filled with joy when I saw the young dancers from Uganda popularly known as Triplets Ghetto kids performing (alongside French Montana) at the BET awards in front of the cream of American music entertainment.
Brought on the scene by their amazing dances to Endy Kenzo’s hit song Sitya Loss, these young boys and girls have continued to work hard even after one of them died in freak bicycle accident. It is such work ethic and determination that propels young people to success. The Ghetto Kids were not in contention for any award but they did represent Uganda and East Africa quite well.
For the awards, East Africa as a region was represented by a young Tanzanian artiste called Ray Vanny who won the Viewer’s Choice Award “Best International Act.” The music industry in the region has grown so much that now it is feeding the politics too with people like Bobi Wine, Professor Jay, Judith Babirye and even Kenya’s Jaguar who is contesting against Boniface Mwangi. The time for young people is indeed now.