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Kenya political crisis: Youths yearn for their own 'Obama'

As a corruption scandal threatens to derail Kenya's fragile coalition government, some young Kenyans are reaching across ethnic lines and saying they'll no longer be tools of cynical politicians.

Agents of change: Reaching across ethnic and religious lines, youth activists have wrested influence from Kenya’s political elite. From left: Caroline Ruto, Joshua Nyamori, Hassan Ole Naado, Benson Maisori, and Kariuki Susan.

Scott Baldauf/The Christian Science Monitor

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In Kenya's last national election, the country's youths were out on the street, campaigning for candidates who promised to improve their lives. Some young Kenyans even carried out horrific acts of ethnic violence at the urging of their political leaders.

But now, disgruntled Kenyan young adults say, they won't be fooled again.

"Young people have served the role of being the gear levers used by politicians to reach power, and at the end of the day, youth feel excluded from political power," says Joshua Nyamori, leader of the Nyanza Youth Coalition in Kisumu. "So we've started a dialogue among ourselves. We decided to organize ourselves around issues, instead of around politicians."

He chuckles. "The public officials are fearful. They do not know how to handle us."

This week, as a corruption scandal threatens to tear apart the fragile coalition government and allies of Prime Minister Raila Odinga say they will boycott cabinet meetings, Kenyans are worried that the political crisis could once again devolve into ethnic violence.

The convergence of so many youth groups – dozens around the country with tens of thousands of members – from different ethnic and religious groups, is one of the most hopeful signs on Kenya's torrid political landscape.


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