A netter recently presented an hypothetical narrative in which a university graduate ends up as an Al Shabaab or Mungiki recruit because he could not find a job for a long time and his efforts to even start a jua kali life saver business fails to take off because he cannot get KEBS certification now required of all those making or selling these gadgets due to bureaucratic delays and/or corruption.
I have decided to explore this hypothesis further and in so doing, I offer my views on this serious and urgent issue that must be addressed even more aggressively and that is youth unemployment and crime, thus:
I don’t know if this has been asked of a real recruit but, the one who joins Al Shabaab or Mungiki in this hypothetical; how does he answer the question he is or will be maiming or killing innocent people who have nothing to do with his misery?
Next, how does he answer the question once they join, it’s only a matter of a short time before they are caught or killed whether they have even had a chance to kill or maim such that his “freedom” from misery at the expense of innocent people is short-lived and therefore not worth it?
Finally, but not least, how does he answer the question it is noble rather than offering to kill or maim the innocent, to simply commit suicide?
I ask these questions because if they are university educated as in this hypothetical or simply not mentally ill, joining either of these groups knowing fully the end is to maim, kill or be killed, I have no sympathy for them once they cross that line and make that conscious decision to join.
They deserve the fate that befalls them from that point on which is inevitably death, especially given even more resolute efforts by the government to root out these murderous groups.
I do have great sympathy and we all should for them before they cross the line and go there but there are several distinctions to note about this pre-Al Shabaab or and Mungiki phase:
Imagine you are at the admission desk for either Al Shabaab or Mungiki and the young man is standing there in front of you and you ask him what led him to come; what do you think he will say?
The netter narrated one answer in his hypothesis as above, namely, that the graduate is without a job, destitute and without even the hope to start a jua kali business because of corruption and red tape.
My take on it is there is more to that answer which goes beyond the question of economics into the question of violence and the propensity to commit violence in the first place.
In other words, and this is really my proposition, individuals who are willing and/or end up committing violence, especially in killing innocent people, have a predisposed violent mind which makes them readily inclined, and find it attractive to commit or to be recruited to commit violence.
Lack of economic opportunity is not the primary reason even though it can be offered as an excuse in their warped minds.
Were the opposite to be true, every poor person or those otherwise unable to find jobs would be trooping to all sorts of murderous outfits across the globe and the world will be finished as we know it.
The true answer the young man standing in front of you at the Al Shabaab or Mungiki desk as to why he is there is therefore “I want to kill someone.”
He can tell you the true story about how he physically ended up there, including the inability to get a job and being frustrated or unable to get KEBS certification but that’s simply an excuse to pursue his true passion and that is to kill.
For every one like him unable to find a job and being unable to find a means to make a living, there are thousands who went the other direction opposite the road to kill and maim and intentionally so as him.
As I have noted above, once this young man goes beyond the recruiting point and actually joins any of these murderous groups, I have no sympathy for him and what fate he meets and one would hope he is caught or eliminated before he actually kills or maims.
The solution for this type of person lies in not creating economic opportunity, but going to the root cause of it and that is, upbringing.
Children who grow up in an environment where love and peace is not preached and practiced but instead hate and intolerance is, or have bent anger from all sorts of directions from early on in life will invariably ultimately seek violence as the ultimate solution to their misery.
I would therefore recommend intervention in terms of education about conflict resolution and by that I mean both internalized and externalized conflicts, some of which can be cultural while others are intrinsic to the individual.
This is just my raw thought on this and therefore I can’t cite for you any scientific basis for it other than my own surmise based on my own observations and thinking about this.
I will in time explore this suggestion even further in terms of a specific proposal as to how this can be implemented but that’s to come at some point, I hope.
I distinguish this young man, the graduate who ends up being an Al-Shabaab or Mungiki recruit from the rest of the criminals who I may or may not sympathize with or advocate for helping them, depending on a number of factors which go to the core is of criminality and having a criminal mind.
There is no question there is a high correlation between unemployment and criminal behavior but unemployment itself does not account for all criminal behavior.
Indeed, it was in recognition of this fact that the Grand Coalition proposed and implemented through Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s office, the Kazi Kwa Vijana programme (KKV).
In launching the project, the PM said the following:
“I am pleased to write on the Kazi KwaVijana (KKV) programme, an initiative of the Grand Coalition Government to tackle the twin problems of hunger and unemployment. The KKV programme is designed to afford, during this period of global financial crisis, national drought and famine, immediate relief to young people by way of providing them with income to buy food through employment in public works. Young people, male and female, are to be employed under labour contracts in selected public works projects identified under the KKV programme. Some of these projects, particularly those to do with irrigation and water supply, are intended to enhance food production in the marginal areas most affected by drought. There are also KKV projects designed for the conservation and management of the environment while others will improve road transportation in rural and urban areas”
Following recent allegations of corruption involving Phase I of KKV (KKV I) that turned out to be false, the PM provided a detailed statement to Parliament in which he said, among other things, that KKV I was as stated in remarks launching the project, an emergency stimulus intervention, designed to provide a social safety net for young Kenyans at risk of hunger and starvation which was implemented by six ministries with the PM’s office providing overall supervision of the programme while Office of the President, and Ministries of Finance and Planning provided support services on the monitoring and coordination aspects.
According the PM and citing a report issued by the International Labor Organization (ILO), the number of youth engaged under KKV I actually exceeded the original target by more than 10 per cent. All in all, the Government contributed Kshs.2.8bn to KKV I in the financial year 2008/2009, and Kshs.4.3bn in the financial year 2009/2010.
The PM then went on to account for all expenditures on the project, concluding that just only 4.8% of the total funds for the project were spent on “ineligible” activities according to the World Bank guidelines, but that only meant that government, not the World Bank, should have paid for those expenses.
The PM did acknowledge that a payment of Kshs.1,221,000 was made as a top-up allowance to a civil servant in active service and on the Government’s payroll but promised that the funds will be recovered from the officer concerned as appropriate, to avoid double payment.
“I do not condone any kind of corruption or misuse of funds,” said the Prime Minister while noting that KKV I was a success.
As to the current status of KKV, the PM categorically disproved the allegation that Kshs.4.3bn or US$43 million for Component I of the KKV II Kenya Youth Empowerment Programme was lost because the project was cancelled.
“The Kshs. 4.3bn has not been lost,” said the Prime Minister, adding, “the project is alive and will continue to be implemented.”
The PM promised that he will ensure that any weaknesses that might remain in the programme shall be corrected and the government “will move resolutely forward with our plans to empower young Kenyans.”
That’s precisely what needs to happen but it does not mean an end to criminality when it does; it simply means we shall have less of it and in manageable proportions we can live with without living in fear of being attacked or robbed every day, everywhere and anywhere in the country.
On the other hand, violence will likely continue to be a part of a large segment of our society whether economic conditions improve or not due to historical and cultural reasons that must be addressed urgently by way of implementing a number of proposals aimed at basically deprogramming those prone to be violence while ensuring that today’s young and those in formative stage are indoctrinated to believe a handshake or hug, not fist is the solution to conflict.
As for those KKV may not reach, an outreach to at least educate and inform them even about some of the questions and consequences I have raised above for the hypothetical graduate Al-Shabaab or Mungiki recruit would go a long way before a job does.
Otherwise even more violence and widespread criminality will become a fixture in our lives more than it is today and that is simply unacceptable, given we have the resources to prevent us from getting there.
At the same time, we must accept the reality no society is violence or crime free; it’s all a matter of degree of opportunity and acceptance.
When HIV and AIDS pandemic hit Kenya, some were said to wish for less deadly STDs like herpes and so on.
Kenyans as a whole would prefer criminality of the old days that primarily involved petty offenses and when it occurred primarily in the cities not in suburbs and residences and certainly not at the rate and devastation it does these days.
That day will come sooner than later and how Kenyans vote in 2012 will certainly have a bearing on that happening.
Peace, Unity and Progress