In 1950s and a large part of 1960s, the African young men and women who were interested in the fate of their colonial countries and continent were more concerned with liberating their people from European colonial rule.
These were the likes of Ghanaian Kwame Nkrumah, Tanzanian Mwalimu Nyerere, Kenyan Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Madiba Mandela, Ms. Winnie Mandela, Patrice Lumumba - the list goes on. History validates their generation’s sacrifice as having fought for independence and for us their then unborn generation. Critics will focus more on their failures, forgetting that no human is immune to error. In post independence era, another group emerged blinded with greed, and lust for power.
In 1970s and1980s they enlarged their “society” giving birth to innocent minds poisoned in their socialization . Currently, Africa finds herself with a large, divided youthful society. The first group is composed of the elites whose character and thought process has been heavily intoxicated by western ideals, from language, to culture.
Their arrogance exhibits oppressors’ behaviour under a different skin color. They have learned from their fathers’ greedy hearts and looked up to their uncaring mothers’ souls. In their thinking, anything African is dismissed as uncivilized, a village up country is a no-go zone, and their definition of identity is influenced by television and magazines.
They are rarely found on the streets rioting for any issues that affect society; they are often found in bed on election day with a hangover from last night’s heavy drinking.
Their jobs are taken for granted; they earn fat salaries and bank it overseas and save some to purchase alcohol for their fellow hypocrite friends. Should the country plunge into a civil war, genocide or any other crisis, they are the first to be flown out of the country.
There is another group of young people whose struggles begin at birth – people from the lower class. Their childhood is marked by hard labour before and after school, that is, if they can afford the resources or get permission to attend (especially young girls).
They have to be exceptionally lucky and bright to make it through high school to university. Their first salary is spent on educating their siblings, feeding their parents if not helping a cousin or relative with long term illness called dependency. Should the country plunge into a civil war, genocide, or any other crisis, they will be brutally beaten, listed for the military as well as put on frontlines in any battles, and if not killed they walk or run long distances to cross into the nearest border.
Africa is a land where the rich dictate the present and future of their country and network to dishonor the continent. Their greed causes uncertainty to the unborn children and their networks expand from the Cape to Cairo. In the last three years, the young people from the middle class and from wealthy families, mentored and guided with their parents ganged up, and started the journey of lying to the poor, majority young voters.
They (poor, young voters) were told there is such a thing as their voices being heard through the ballot box. For once they went out in numbers believing that their majority cries for change matter. The events around the country yesterday were an illustration of this deeply divided society.
Unlike a few weeks ago when riots began, the Pentagon (as the ODM opposition leadership calls themselves) were on the streets surrounded by their blind supporters. Alongside, the 4WDs and SUVs were moving slowly, as they arrived in the city center and the police confronted them.
Dispersed by tear gas and live bullets, the rich and so called “leaders” entered their cars and drove off to the nearest five star hotels, where they were welcomed with a cup of tea. The rioters ran for their lives on foot, without a direction, and if caught by police, were brutally beaten. Even those who were in the city for other reasons assuming the situation is back to normal were caught and not spared by the tear gas.
The police special force is composed of the young people whose learning in the academy seems to have concentrated on how to kill their own brothers and sisters without pity - perhaps with orders from a government minister, a police boss probably somewhere heavily guarded, occasionally sipping the best wine or warm beer.
The police, the rioters and the displaced have something in common; they are both manipulated by the rich, to carry out their political agenda. They all go home on empty stomachs while the bosses enjoy feasts prepared by a well-qualified chef. These two groups tune in for news in the evening to watch and listen to their day re-played on the screen or radio.
The poor ignorant person proudly explains how he is sacrificing for democracy and freedom for his country as the rich look at their political interests while calculating their economic losses or gains.
“You, as young people, should be at the forefront of making sacrifices for Africa. Often, in Africa, instead of young people being at the forefront of the struggle for social justice, they are at the forefront of the struggle for privileges.” - President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.
And so as we watched a young man making faces at the police on Wednesday protests in Kisumu City on television, and in a split of a second he was shot and lying down dead, this question came to mind: sacrifice for who? Then I was looking into the eyes of a thirteen-year old girl seated in front of her mother’s tent in a displaced camp, I asked myself: sacrifice for what?
Our African young generation has a challenge to address the social inequalities, or else we will continue to submit to the manipulation of the rich with their partners in crime wherever they are in the world.
‘If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few
who are rich’.
John F. Kennedy, inaugural address, January 20, 1961
The author is a Masters student in International Relations at the United States International University-Nairobi