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"Kura Yako": Why Tanzania's future lies in the hands of its youth

Restless Development

Kura Yako. Unless you’ve been really nailing your Swahili lately or you’re familiar with the Translate function on Google, you’ve probably started reading this with no clue as to what my opening sentence means.

Well, I’m nice, so I’ll tell you - it means “Your Vote.”

It's also the title of a very catchy song by two young Tanzanians, Noah Pv and Ibra O. 

This political anthem has got the whole of our office humming along this week. Humming because most of us haven’t nailed Swahili either, but luckily a few have and they kindly translated the hook for the rest of us:

Union, light, isolation and darkness

Let’s join together young people to erase these defects

Our vote is the remedy for these defects

Your vote matters, your vote is a security

We can, if we unite, your vote is a weapon,

We can, if we unite, your vote is a weapon.

Why am I banging on about this song? It’s not because the lead singer is wearing an action/2015 t-shirt with the #YouthPower hashtag that I wrote about before. It’s actually because, this Sunday, millions of Tanzanians will be going to vote in the General Election and there’s some really important points to be made about youth participation.

The youth population in Tanzania has been growing fast, almost doubling from 4.4m in 1990 to 8.1m in 2010. Young people now make up 12m of the 22m people registered to vote. In an election that looks set to be the tightest the country has ever seen, it is young people that will be the Kingmakers.

The ruling party, Chama Chama Mapinduz (CCM), has governed ever since Tanzania gained independence in 1961. Julius Nyerere was their first leader and he didn’t end his reign until 1985. This means that this will be the first election where all of the voters under 30 were born after his rule. The current President, Julius Kikwete, has to step down after serving two terms, and the biggest opposition parties have joined together to contest the Presidency in a coalition  called UKAWA, so observers are predicting the closest election ever. 

But whatever the people’s preference is, one thing is for sure - young people have to make their voices heard. Working in Tanzania to encourage young people to use their vote, Restless Development conducted a survey of 276,300 young Tanzanians across the country to find out what issues they care most about. This has all been put into a Youth Manifesto and Tanzania Country Director Margaret Mliwa thinks that this will empower young people even after the polls have closed, she says:

“As the majority of the population, the voice of young people must be heard in this election. A peaceful, fair, and energetically democratic election depends on the contribution of informed, involved, and empowered young Tanzanians. And whoever our new President and politicians may be, youth have got their own manifesto outlining their priorities which you can be sure they will hold our leaders accountable to.”

So young Tanzanians, when the election fever dies down and the dust settles, remember that you have your own Manifesto now. Make sure your new leader implements it. In the meanwhile, just remember Kura Yako.

This piece was written by Bobby Dean, public relations senior coordinator at Restless Development