Young people must avoid being used as vehicles by those in the twilight of their lives and at the same time ensure that the youth agenda is not forsaken by those who move up the political ladder, a leading United Nations official said during an exclusive interview with The Patriot.
Brian Kagoro, who was in the country recently, urged young people on the continent to organize themselves and pressure governments to deliver on their promises. He dispelled the notion that only ‘grey-haired’ people can govern a country. Kagoro, who serves as the Regional Programme Advisor for the UNDP’s Africa Governance and Public Administration Programme as well as Officer in Charge (ad interim) of the UNDP Africa Governance Team, noted that young politicians often use youth groups as a political ladder and as soon as they become active they are used by the elders as instruments to silence and mutilate the youth agenda.
“The fact that they [young politicians] become clients of the powerful instruments, shows an interesting narrative, I make reference to the movement celebrity notion whereby a person is abstracted from the context and content of the youth interests. They are handed ministerial space, appear in state media and at state functions close to the leadership and they become the proverbial monkeys in a cage who cannot think for themselves,” said Kagoro who was in the country to attend the AU Regional Consultation for Youth Focused on Human Rights indaba.
His remarks come at a time when youth groups and young people in the country continue to be fragmented without any unity of purpose when it comes to the youth agenda. In Namibia, top positions in political circles continue to be reserved for the older generation while young people are merely slotted into positions as a way token and seldom on merit. He added: “The problem with the movement celebrity concept and becoming an instrument is that you become a legitimate dependent focused on survival instead of focusing on the demographic growth that you ought to represent.” He spoke at length about the consequences of the youth being bought off by seniors, saying it sometimes leads to highly corrupted youth who are highly insensitive to their constituency.
Leaders of tomorrow
Kagoro further disagreed with the purported notion that “the youth are the leaders of tomorrow”.
“That notion suggests that there is a qualification or prequalification determined not by the constitution, physicality or morality, so who determines it and what is the duration? In countries where life expectancy is as low as 57 years, when is tomorrow?” he questioned. Kagoro said young people must learn state craft the way the liberation generation did instead of waiting until they are old before being considered to lead the nation. “If 75 percent of the population is under 35 years then it makes no sense that the upper quota of a small group must control [the majority].” “The youth must keep in mind that the solutions for tomorrow are authored today, therefore, the contours of liberty and development are not issues that you postpone or deal with in installments. Any form of development is based on long-term planning that is revised on a daily basis. The development of the USA is a result of investments made way back because they knew that waiting [for] it is a tragedy,” he said.
Kagoro also spoke of political menopause, a metaphor he used to describe the dwindling state of alertness as people grow older. “In politics you need to be alert and we all know that people are most alert during their youth days in which they enjoy their most productive phase. Prime Minister [David] Cameron and President [Barack] Obama ran big countries but they managed because they were alert and smart,” he charged. “You do not want to be led by those in the twilight of [their] lives, the job requires you to be smart, and as long as it is old people at the helm, who think they are dealing with children, there will be problems.
Class of their own
He also emphasized the need for young people to strive to become a class within themselves and determine what is important and challenge the incumbent leadership by providing physical and thought leadership. “Young people are not prepared to roll up their sleeves and work for their country because they want everything to come as a gift. They are not willing to pay a price, which is impossible in activism,” he said. He explained that: “The vision of change is different, the [Nelson] Mandela, [Sam] Nujoma and [Robert] Mugabe generation needed jobs, and employment was an issue, but there was a cause slightly higher than the personal political economy. So, until the youth find that cause that is higher than merely targeting to meet personal needs for survival, only then can things change. Otherwise, they will become slaves and potential captives of those who can meet their needs.”
He also outlined that the youth need to clearly define their development agenda. Kagoro charged that: “Young people must have moral outrage against looters, those governing badly and say to them we do not have the luxury of saying next time because this is not a dress rehearsal and we cannot wait any longer for development, the only thing that can wait is your luxury cars and new parliament.” He also questioned the number of trips some leaders undertake with huge delegations that comes as a huge cost for the taxpayer.“There must be a performance management system so that people can see whether there was any return on investment from these trips. Some [leaders] travel with small delegations but they still manage to do well, but others go on long trips with big delegations yet there are no results,” he noted. The trips are an industry but for our countries it is a cost because it is development deferred, he concluded.