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The Unga Revolution, a group of young people who gather daily at 1pm in Nairobi’s Harambee Avenue to campaign for the right to food and housing, reminds Kenyans that they need to exercise our civic duty more often, observes Patita Tingoi. ‘We need not give up just because we can survive on what we have today, tomorrow might be a different ball game all together.’

I am sure many Kenyans have noticed the group of youth that congregate on Harambee Avenue (Now rebranded Unga Avenue) everyday at 1pm with empty plates. I have heard a lot of criticism about this brave young people from several quoters. Some claim that the youth have been paid by foreign organizations to cause trouble, others think the youth are just lazy, plain and simple. When I look at my monthly budget, I am tempted to think that the people who feel that this group is a waste of time and space must be living in an entirely different Kenya from the rest of us.

Of course the Economist are telling us that this is the situation all over the world and that blaming our government will not change anything. We all know that the cost of fuel affects the cost of everything else and thus the price of basic needs keeps increasing as a result. However what they don’t tell us is that the government has the power to regulate anything they want. So that brings us to the question of priorities. The government has always had a choice when it comes to price control. When the prices go up, the government can choose to absorb the extra cost and that means reduce the percentage that goes to them. How about taxing the luxury goods like the cost of a 4x4 vehicle, or the cost of a television set? One way or another, the government has a choice. This is what the young men and women are protesting. The fact that our government does not seem to notice the increase in the price of this basic products. It seems that the only way they will take cognizant of that is if MPs' salaries are reduced to cater for the budget deficit resulting from the decrease in the government percentages from petroleum products.

So when you see the young people outside the president's and prime ministers' office, know that they are brave enough to confront the problem on behalf of the rest of us. We have always been told that Kenyans are a tolerant and resilient lot and I have always wondered how many of us take that as a compliment. Simply put, we can over come anything. If I was a corrupt public servant, I would take that to mean that no matter how much I took from the public coffers, Kenyans would find a way of getting over the damage I cause. Now do you still think that is a compliment? We need to exercise our civic duty more often; that is what the Unga revolution fellows have taught me. We need not give up just because we can survive on what we have today, tomorrow might be a different ball game all together.


* This article first appeared on The changing times.
* Patita Tingoi is a programme officer with Fahamu.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.