Youth and peaceful elections in Africa- Linda Alitsi
Elections are a democratic right which leads to political, socio-economic and even geo-physical transformation of a nation. This can only be felt if the elections are peaceful. The political arena in Kenya has since independence, been dominated by the older generation with limited youth participation. In addition, the youth have been used as violence instigators or have become the victims of political unrests. This is due to the limited employment opportunities, ignorance on political governance issues, limited access to sustainable livelihoods and insignificant political representation.
However, all is not lost. Today, the youth have decided enough is enough and they are developing a keen interest in politics. Most of them are vying and are actually planning to vote. There are successful case studies where youth in Africa have utilized the social media platforms to campaign for peaceful elections. The example of Ghana during 2016 elections stands out. The youth encouraged one another on the importance of driving an issue based Ghana’s political agenda, instead of dwelling on political figures and ethnic divisions. This is worthy emulating.
To ensure peaceful electoral cycles, a lot of effort should be place on proactive measures before the elections rather than on reactive post-election strategies. This ensures the peaceful culture is build. Those who are vying should be taken through leadership training with an emphasis on accountability and transparency in governance. There should be more public discourse between the politicians and the public. Peace education and campaigns should also be embedded on the civic education on election process. More innovative approaches such as signing of public pledge on peaceful campaigns should be prevailed on political aspirants. More so, the youth should drive all these processes since youth correspond to innovation.
The youth bulge in Africa is not a statistical secret. However, the youth must rise up beyond political myopia and turn the bulge into a political resource. With their numbers the political elite should be negotiating with them and not the other way round that leaves them as a marginalized group. They have the power to swing the vote to their advantage and in a peaceful way. 60% of the voters in almost all African countries are the youth.
Ethnic divisions should no longer stand between the youth and the vision of a continent at peace with itself. Youth have an advantage is that most youth have been raised in a new dynamic era of social change and globalization where tribal lines are being broken in all aspects. They have the ability to drive non-tribal politics. Hence they can intentionally vote for a candidate irrespective of his/her tribe, only focusing on the agenda. Additionally, the youth should not just vote for an individual just because he/she is a youth. The focus should be on one’s agenda irrespective of age. This is the outlook of good leadership and governance and promotes peaceful and just elections.
The youth must realize their potential and choice to be engaged as positive catalysts in changing political systems, power dynamics and sharing economic opportunities. With positive and progressive choices, the narrative of election violence in African countries like Ivory Coast, Burundi and Kenya will be relegated in the history books for political analyst. Sadly, there is no application called “commitment” to download. Rise up and Wise up youth; the power is in our hands.