How Gen Z Protests Have Exposed Kenya’s Perennial Trust Problem in Public Affairs

Recent­ly, I delved into “The Eight Pil­lars of Trust” by David Hor­sager, an enlight­en­ing read that pro­found­ly res­onat­ed with me amidst the protests led by Kenya’s ‘Gen Z’ youth. This book explores the crit­i­cal role of trust in our devel­op­men­tal jour­ney and how it is built with­in orga­ni­za­tions and soci­eties. He lists the pil­lars as clar­i­ty, com­pas­sion, char­ac­ter, com­pe­ten­cy, com­mit­ment, con­nec­tion, con­tri­bu­tion, and consistency.

The skep­ti­cism that greet­ed Pres­i­dent Ruto announce­ment that he would not sign the bill, spoke vol­umes about the immense trust deficit in our coun­try. Indeed, many of the Gen Zs still do not believe that the Finance Bill 2024 is tru­ly dead even after the president’s sent it back to par­lia­ment with a mem­o­ran­dum call­ing for the dele­tion of all claus­es. This yawn­ing gap between the gov­ern­ment and the gov­erned has defined the his­to­ry of our nation since the colo­nial peri­od. How­ev­er, the coun­try has wit­nessed great trans­for­ma­tion on the back of key his­tor­i­cal moments that seemed to restore the people’s trust in the system.

The Lan­cast­er House Con­fer­ence of 1962 laid the ground­work for our inde­pen­dence in 1963, mark­ing the start of what I see as the trans­for­ma­tive 30-year cycles of Kenya. At that time, few­er than 100 Kenyans were uni­ver­si­ty grad­u­ates accord­ing to the Kenya Nation­al Bureau of Sta­tis­tics (KNBS). That had changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly in just three decades. The sec­ond trans­for­ma­tion phase was ush­ered in by the repeal of sec­tion 2A in 1992 which brought back mul­ti­par­ty­ism and cul­mi­nat­ed with the enact­ment of our new con­sti­tu­tion. This was an epoch of mas­sive polit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion and expan­sion of civ­il lib­er­ties. By the end of this cycle the num­ber of uni­ver­si­ty grad­u­ates was approx­i­mate­ly 85,650.

Today, we are expe­ri­enc­ing a gen­er­a­tional awak­en­ing marked by the rise of a new breed of Kenyans. With approx­i­mate­ly 745,650 uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents and 50,000 grad­u­at­ing annu­al­ly, our nation is more edu­cat­ed and engaged than ever. This is the begin­ning of the third trans­for­ma­tive cycle. Nev­er­the­less, the per­sis­tent ero­sion of trust at the end of each cycle pos­es sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges. Here’s how the eight pil­lars can address these issues:

First, Clar­i­ty is achieved through trans­par­ent com­mu­ni­ca­tion of gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives like the Big Four Agen­da, which has sig­nif­i­cant­ly engaged the youth by mak­ing poli­cies under­stand­able and relat­able. Sec­ond­ly, Com­pas­sion is demon­strat­ed in our response to crises, such as the gov­ern­men­t’s han­dling of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, where mea­sures to sup­port vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties rein­forced the gov­ern­men­t’s com­mit­ment to its citizens.

Third­ly, Char­ac­ter involves choos­ing integri­ty over con­ve­nience, exem­pli­fied by activists’ relent­less fight against cor­rup­tion, for instance. Fourth­ly, Com­pe­ten­cy is shown by our adapt­abil­i­ty such the rolling out of the e‑Citizen plat­form to enhance ser­vice deliv­ery. Fifth, Com­mit­ment is vis­i­ble in our ath­letes, like Eli­ud Kip­choge, whose glob­al exploits con­tin­ue to inspire and unite Kenyans.

Sixth, Con­nec­tion is fos­tered through com­mu­ni­ty-dri­ven ini­tia­tives that link expe­ri­enced lead­ers with the youth, build­ing strong net­works and trust.

Sev­enth, Con­tri­bu­tion is evi­denced by tan­gi­ble out­comes such as envi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion efforts led by young Kenyan­swhich have gar­nered both nation­al and inter­na­tion­al recognition.

Eighth, Con­sis­ten­cy is reflect­ed in the gov­ern­men­t’s com­mit­ment to equi­table progress in sec­tors such as edu­ca­tion and health.

As we reflect on the events of the last few weeks, we must not miss the lessons brought to us by our young peo­ple. The Gen Zs have pow­er­ful­ly remind­ed us of the impor­tance of trust in trans­form­ing a nation. Kenya’s jour­ney towards becom­ing a resilient and inclu­sive soci­ety requires us to build and main­tain this trust across all sec­tors. By fos­ter­ing an envi­ron­ment that empha­sizes clar­i­ty, com­pas­sion, char­ac­ter, and the oth­er foun­da­tion­al pil­lars of trust, we ensure that each gen­er­a­tional cycle not only faces its chal­lenges but also builds on the suc­cess­es of the past.

As we con­tin­ue to empow­er our youth and engage all sec­tors of soci­ety, we pave the way for a future where trust is not a peri­od­ic goal but a con­tin­u­ous lega­cy, ensur­ing that Kenya remains strong through times of change and chal­lenge. Think green, act green!

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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