CMD-Kenya has rolled out a new initiative – the Multi-actor Youth National Dialogue Sessions – whose goal to bring together and organize young leaders across all sectors to collectively push for electoral reforms.
In partnership with the Christian Democratic International Center (KIC), the youth focused intervention will map out key issues for electoral and political reforms with a keenness on having them actualized way ahead of the next general elections to avoid pitfalls from high-stake political interests inevitable in a general elections year.
Speaking ahead of the inaugural meeting on July 20th in Nairobi, CMD-Kenya Executive Director Frankline Mukwanja said, “the youth energy should be harnessed to generate an impetus for constitutional and institutional reforms for the benefit of all Kenyans.”
Although Kenya is better rated in terms of democratic development in the East African Region, the level and nature of youth involvement in the country’s politics remains low and largely negative. “Youth and political parties’ youth wings have mostly been visible during general elections and are mainly used by politicians for intimidating rivals, but also serve as votes for purchase,” KIC East African Regional Programme Manager Emmy Otim stated.
Key impediments to increased and constructive youth participation in Kenya’s political processes include the country’s electoral system, challenges around political parties’ management, lack of free and fair elections as well as unfavorable electoral financing regime in the country. “It is a no brainer that the youth aged between 18 and 35 are the majority and comprise over half the number of registered voters, but rarely do they have their say in the state of affairs,” said Mukwanja, adding: “Despite being the majority, they have always been marginalized and relegated to the backburners yet this is a dynamic lot that is full of energy which can be harnessed to build a more democratic country.”
The Multi-actor Youth National Dialogue Sessions offer a platform for youth leaders to discuss and agree on the thematic areas that address the mal-apportionment of votes and the zero-sum character of elections that currently permeates the electoral system with its winner takes-all formula. Moreover, youth leaders have an opportunity to examine what complementary electoral mechanisms are required to meet the challenges of Kenya’s national politics which include the inadequate representation of women, ethnic, racial minorities and persons with disabilities.
The thematic areas the youth leaders are focusing on include: the country’s electoral system, reforms and strengthening the Electoral Management Body, strengthening Political Parties management systems and review of electoral financing regime.
The dialogue sessions draw participants from various organizations/groups including Kenya Young Parliamentarians Association (KYPA), Young Members of County Assemblies (YMCA), Political Parties, and Executives from Youth Serving CSOs, Students Leadership Bodies, Private Sector and Faith-based organizations.