The National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) has taken to Nakuru its campaign aimed at sensitising members of the public on the need to maintain peace before and after the August 9 General Election with calls on the youths to shun lawless activities during the period.
Through the initiative, dubbed ‘Sauti Yetu’ NACADA has identified 10 counties where it is partnering with youth lobbies to create awareness on the adverse impacts of election violence on the country, particularly among the young people.
According to NACADA Chief Executive Officer Victor Okioma the venture is incorporating stakeholders from different Government ministries, religious institutions, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) and security officers who have expressed their desire to collaborate in averting electoral violence.
Speaking at the Nakuru Athletics Club, Okioma said Kenyans need to alter their mindset about the election process as a contest and begin treating it as a platform of choosing their leaders.
“In every electoral circle as citizens, we should stand strong for our country, and unite. Elections and leadership will come and go, we must, therefore, safeguard our children’s future and they need a country beyond the polling process. By doing so we will boost investors’ confidence and attract new ones,” added the Okioma.
Mr. Okioma stated that the youth should be roped in the aspirants’ manifestos especially regarding issues affecting them such as the high unemployment and low representation of the youth in government.
While affirming that leaders and aspirants should also be on the forefront of promoting peace and harmony amid all communities, Okioma said the initiative was helping young person’s understand that there is nothing to gain from engaging in such activities and that they will only be destroying their future.
The ‘Sauti Yetu’ Peace Caravan is also urging young people to look beyond elections and compare that with the little money they are given to cause violence and that they should not allow political acts to put them in bad books.
In Kenya, Okioma indicated before and after every election year, many youths are jailed for political crimes.
The CEO said that youth, who make up more than half of the country’s population, have a vital role to play in enhancing democracy by fully avoiding disruptive criminal acts and instead participate peacefully in the choice of grassroots and national leaders.
The authority has made similar calls in Uasin-Gishu, Nyamira, Kisumu and Kericho counties. Okioma pointed out that the ‘Sauti Yetu’ peace caravan next moves into Kiambu, Kilifi, Mombasa and Kwale counties.
He revealed that official reports indicated that more than 70 per cent of the direct perpetrators of the election violence were young people yet only five per cent of youth engaged in violence, meaning all is not lost among the youth if the small percentage is nipped in the bud.
Okioma added, “Prevention is the first imperative of justice. We are doing everything possible to prevent the youth from involving themselves in election violence.”
He said NACADA was also encouraging aspirants to support the youth to engage in legitimate roles such as their participation in voting as voters and poll agents, campaigning responsibly for their parties and candidates.
The CEO stated it was both a criminal offence and morally wrong for politicians to use youths to disrupt political rallies of their opponents and cited this as a problem that has been digging deeper into the democratic space of the country for quite some time
“Violence during the electioneering period is a huge threat to the peace and stability of the country. Its high time politicians who are using innocent youth to cause violence stopped immediately since the Constitution outlaws violation of human rights,” he observed.
Okioma warned that supporters of political parties and youths who are being misused by the politicians to cause chaos should remain alive to the fact that they will be held individually responsible for their crimes.
By Anne Mwale