Article written

  • on 13.03.2015
  • at 02:10 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

Non-Governmental-Oppression and youth in Kenya 0

NGOs do a good job, certainly, but they cannot escape the charge that often they are focused on professionalising “development” and people’s struggles through their constant supply of statistics, reports and case studies. Rarely do these organisations tackle entrenched structural injustices underpinning the problems they attempt to solve.

There is no respite for young people in Kenya. They, who constitute the majority of our population, live lives that while supposedly anchored in a new constitution and the prospering civil liberty doctrines of the 1990s and onwards, have no bread, no employment and no justice. What’s more, they have never experienced substantive democracy or (re)democratization; democracy in Kenya, as one young person conveyed unhesitatingly, “is for the rich.”

For these youth who were born and came of age in these moments of theoretical change coupled with the proliferation of NGOs meant to safeguard and propel these new moments, “nothing has changed since they were born.” In contrast even though the gospels of prosperity and participation (amongst other neoliberal jazz like “empowerment”) are meant to positively impact the lives of young people, they are excluded from meaningful prosperity and participation.

These organizations, which exist to ostensibly remedy and renegotiate the fortunes of all generations and appear to be a key vehicle through which young lives seeking redress are steered towards, often frame struggles in ways that are not historical or intersectional. In this way they do not, with particular regard to material conditions, highlight the structural inequalities, exacerbated by neoliberalism, that stricture many young lives.

Essentially body participation in “participatory meetings” is privileged over questioning the young bodies in police bags all over the country. The ability to cast a vote for more neoliberal democracy, takes precedence over food, real wage employment, gender, sexual and social and ecological justice. NGO organizing then takes on the tenors of NGOppresion.

While the condition of “don’t die survival” persists across age and gender, youth are ‘privileged’ here because they are the majority in Africa and are the generation bearing the accretions of all the injustices of the past and present moments. They are also seen as the age group in which “crisis” is said to have taken form (hence the popularity of statements such as the “youth bulge” “the coming anarchy” and the “youth threat”).

Notwithstanding this, they are the generation which offer most hope for our redemption. Really, if they survive (and many don’t) they may just be the only ones left.

Continue reading on: Pambazuka

by Ruth Nyambura and Wangui Kimari

Photo Credit: Gideon Maundu. 

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