This summer, two young Danish politicians, Maj from the Danish Socialdemocratic Youth and Morten from the Danish Liberal Youth, travelled to Kenya to raise awareness on youth in politics. In the following, they share their experiences.
With high expectations and a bit of anxiety, we embarked a flight the 26th of June this year. The destination of our flight was Nairobi, where Danish Liberal Democracy Programme (DLDP) had asked us to work with and arrange seminars for, a range of political parties in Kenya for a week. Our host was The Center for Multiparty Democracy, which is local partner of DLDP in Kenya.
Our focus for the seminar was youth in politics. We could not find a subject that made more sense. If things should develop and change for the better, the key is the youth. That is a universal rule, but even more true in a country where 50 percent of the population is consisting of people below the age of 45.
We started our seminar by loosely reciting the Danish political philosopher Hal Koch, who said “Democracy is a way of life, and democracy should be reinvented by each new generation, for them to make it their own”. The words were true 75 years ago and are just as relevant today. Both in Kenya and in Denmark.
Our personal stories and experience in politics are in many ways similar, and we used our stories in the seminar. We both enrolled in our organizations at the age of 15 and have had position in every level of our organization. Following that information, the natural question came from one of the participants, who wanted to know whether everyone in Denmark enrolled in a party at such a young age. Of course they are not. And the potential for engaging more young people is great in Denmark as well as in Kenya.
In our opinion, the big challenge, and also the main difference between politics in Kenya and Denmark is the way young people are included in the parties. The young members of the parties have a feeling that their main purpose of being there, is to show that the youth supports the party, and not to contribute to the development of the party. The lack of a sincere interest from the parties to include young people in decision making processes will eventually degenerate the parties as they do not secure the needed generational shift which is required to maintain a sustainable organisation.
Our time in Kenya gave us strong feeling, that The Kenyan democracy is moving in a positive direction and could do even more so if the young generation were included more. There is a wish to create a more transparent democracy, where the barriers standing in the way of development is removed. We heard a unison message from the youth across parties to end corruption and the tribal based politics – the two greatest obstacles for further democratic development in Kenya today. But at the same time it must be said, that change takes time. A persistent focus is necessary, and it is our hope that the Danish engagement in the course, and the support through DLDP and DIPD will continue in the future.
When we left Kenya the high expectations and anxiety was replaced by optimism and joy after spending a week in such an unusually welcoming country where we have made a lot of new friends in politics.
About Maj and Morten
Maj: 28 years old
Former Vice President and Secretary General of the Danish Socialdemocratic Youth (DSU)
Morten: 30 years old
Former Vice President and Secretary General of the Danish Liberal Youth (VU)
Read more about the partnership between The Liberal Party and Centre For Multiparty Democracy Kenya
For more information, contact Program Manager for the Danish Liberal Democracy Programme, Bent Nicolajsen, at firstname.lastname@example.org