President Kenyatta’s trust in old guard annoys the unemployed youth

Former Othaya MP Mary Wambui (left), former vice president Moody Awori (centre) and former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura have all been handed state jobs. [File, Standard]

Appointments made by President Uhuru Kenyatta in his second term reveal his love for retirees, even as millions of young Kenyans languish in unemployment.

In keeping with the trend, on Monday, former Othaya MP Mary Wambui, 69, was appointed to chair the National Employment Board – the agency responsible for tracking employment trends for a youthful Kenya.

This drew anger from a section of Kenyans who felt slighted by the hire on account of her age and expertise.

Her appointment mirrored that of former Vice President Moody Awori, 92, to chair the Sports, Art and Social Development Fund, former Cabinet minister Noah Wekesa, 83, as chair of the Strategic Food Reserve Fund and former Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura, 72, as chair of the Kenya Revenue Authority, among others.

Industrialist Manu Chandaria, 89, is another beneficiary of the President’s love for the old guard, as is Marsden Madoka, 76, who chairs the board of the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA).

The list of the President’s recent appointments, according to the Standard is dominated by old men and a handful of women, some of whom served in Government long before a majority of Kenyans alive today were born.

Former Kitui senator David Musila, 76, was a powerful provincial commissioner in the Jomo Kenyatta government, Mr Madoka was the founding President’s aide-de-camp, and Catherine Nyamato, 69, was a nominated MP in the Daniel arap Moi presidency.

It is these old men and women the President said he trusts.In December last year, in the wake of uproar over former VP Awori’s appointment to the Sports, Art and Social Development Fund, Uhuru said he felt let down by some of the youthful people he had entrusted with responsibilities.

He said he would rather have a Government of the old than the youth who cannot keep their hands away from public coffers.

“If you see how young people we have trusted with positions steal public money, I would rather appoint somebody like Awori whom I am sure will protect your money to ensure intended developments and services get back to the people,” he said.  “I could see yesterday in different platforms people complaining about my choice of a 91-year-old Awori to look after the youth’s sports fund; the people complaining should put themselves in my shoes …. People should stop making noise and let me do my work.”

Wednesday, the President’s spokesperson Kanze Dena decline to comment on the appointments. Official data shows 75 per cent of Kenya’s population is under the age of 40.

There is a motion pending in the National Assembly seeking to reduce the retirement age to 50 from 60. The bill is sponsored by Starehe MP Charles Njagua, who says this would create jobs for the millions of young Kenyans who are unemployed.

When he was campaigning for his second term, the President promised to “expand the participation of young people in national development, and guarantee that 30 per cent of all appointments, projects and budgets specifically target them”.Uhuru’s manifesto said he prioritised youth employment and pledged to create at least 6.5 million jobs by 2022.“Young people are the cornerstone of Kenya’s future. We have a large pool of talented and entrepreneurial youth who seek opportunities, not handouts. Young people that seek to utilise their talents. Our transformation programme aims to harness this creative energy by providing skills and opportunity to young people to take our country to the next level,” he said then. 

However, the President’s current dalliance with retirees continues, as data from the Public Service Commission (PSC) shows that a majority of Government officers have attained or are nearing retirement age. Moreover, the PSC said, some of those who attain retirement age will be placed on contract, further locking out young people from opportunities.

“The service had an ageing workforce, with 37 per cent of officers being 50 years and above as at June 30, 2017, compared to 35 per cent in the same period in 2015/16 financial year,” reads the PSC report tabled last year.

Ironically, former MP Wambui is a beneficiary of a bill sponsored by youthful Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, who sought to create an agency that would match youth skills with available job opportunities.

Theagency she was appointed to chair will “conduct periodic surveys on labour market skills requirements, and advice training institutions and job seekers appropriately to ensure that training and skills match the job market requirements”.

This week, she said she possesses the necessary qualifications for the job.

Wednesday, Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Shollei called for an end to this trend.“It is very retrogressive for the Government to keep on hiring old people at the expense of qualified youth …. It is highly unacceptable and it shows that the Government is not committed to promoting young people.”


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