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A Call to Rewrite History

Oyunga Pala

Amidst Kenya’s #RejectFinanceBill protests, as the echoes of dissent reverberate through the streets, a generation rises to challenge the pillars of a colonial legacy that still looms large. Dominated by the resilient voices of young Gen Z Kenyans, these protests transcend mere demonstrations on the Finance Bill; they embody a bold reimagining of power, justice, and identity, transforming protests into a potent mechanism for change in African politics.

In the shadows of decolonisation struggles and a shifting global dynamic, artists are urged to use their voices as instruments of revolution. “Journaling Kenya’s Gen Z  Revolution” invites reflective pieces that encapsulate the essence of this transformative juncture in history.

Amid the post-pandemic uncertainty, economic hardship and an existential climate crisis, the call for social justice, equity, and servant leadership reverberates globally. This call serves as a beacon for artists to illuminate the path towards a redefined society, teeming with justice, shared prosperity and ethical leadership. 

The canvas is set for reimagination, resonating with hopes for the future of Africa’s youth aspiring to eradicate social exclusion and discrimination, aiming for a continent of transformation, fulfilment, and boundless opportunities for all.

We call upon artists to capture this urgent moment and join us in rewriting the narrative of our era, shaping a legacy rooted in defiance, reinvention, and an unwavering commitment to a future built on justice and equity.

Gen Z and the Third Liberation

Kawive Wambua

When the British East African Company came to Kenya after being given a charter for the exploitation of our land by the British government, Mekatilili wa Menza, Otenyo Nyamaterere, Syotune wa Kathuke, Muinde wa Mbaa Nyangu, Koitalel Arap Samoei, Waiyaki wa Hinga,  Moraa Gitaa and a host of other leaders mobilised people to resist the evil incursion.

When the so called white man entrenched himself through violence, systemic genocide of indigines, illegal and evil decrees on livelihoods and culture, displacement of whole populations, destocking and the deracination of the utu of Kenyans, Muthoni Nyanjiru, Harry Thuku, Muindi Mbingu, Makham Singh, Bildad Kaggia, Dedan Kimanthi and the Mau Mau generals and a host of others resisted for more than half a century through trade unionism, violent insurrection and sabotage of the evil rule.

When Jomo Kenyatta was invited by the retreating British to form a government that would collapse the voice of citizens, kill organising, create a monolithic political vehicle called KANU and perpetuate colonial ideology and rule, Pio Gama Pinto, Oginga Odinga and a host of others stood up to him and said no. Death, suffering and political repression followed. It didn’t take long before Tom Mboya was assassinated and JM Kariuki of the “Kenya is a country of ten millionaires and ten million beggars” fame was killed and his body dumped in Ngong forest. University students and their lecturers bore the brunt of state terrorism. Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Willy Mutunga, Micere Mugo and Ngotho Kariuki are some of the many who had to go to exile to survive another day.

When Moi “fuataad nyayo” and a law was passed to make Kenya a de jure one party state in 1982, Mwakenya, February 18th Movement and December 12 Movement became the organising spaces. There was a serious crackdown which was capped with the 1986 dictate of the removal of security of tenure for judges. The state went rogue on law, human rights and justice. The 1988 “mlolongo” elections were the fruits of the tree of injustice and bitterness pervaded the political landscape.

Kenyans broke through the fence of repression and organised around Muungano wa Mageuzi and FORD – the Forum for Restoration of Democracy. Rallies organised discreetly were held across the country. The Saba Saba rallies (the name was motivated by the 1967 Arusha declaration of equality) that were held across the country woke the state to an end of the tether of its oppression. Something snapped. Moi buckled under pressure. He repealed Section 2A in 1991 to allow for a multi-party state. Moi proceeded to rig the 1992 and 1997 elections. Stasis. And the struggle continued through the National Convention Executive Council (NCEC) efforts, the Ufungamano Initiative and in Bomas as Kenyans broke the chains of bondage to KANUism and drafted a robustly revolutionary constitution. The thieving political class quickly regrouped to defeat a hoped-for-new-Kenya.

The euphoria in 2002 bore sour fruits as Kibaki’s presidency was dogged by a fight with Raila Odinga over an MoU that nobody saw. Its watershed moment was the government’s loss in the 2005 referendum and the 2007 election that bred violence and led to many Kenyans dying in its aftermath. Kenyans thought a constitution would save the country. In 2010, a progressive one was enacted but was immediately abandoned by both Kibaki and the ICC indictees who took power in 2013.

We have spent more than a decade in the wilderness, suffering from political diatribes and unfulfilled promises, poor livelihoods, wanting service delivery and a chaotic national ethos. That the Gen Zs refused to vote in 2022 was an indictment on Project Kenya: that we have achieved nothing through elections. What with an IEBC which is not independent and the money culture that pervades our electoral processes: the rich liars get elected and the poor electors just want to benefit during elections because they don’t benefit anyway between elections. 

And so when the #RejectFinanceBill2024 protest started, everybody else thought that it would petter out and die like all previous struggles.  When the president withdrew the bill, he and his fellow politicians hoped these protests would end and they would go back to their thieving ways. It quickly morphed into #RutoMustGo, #OccupyParliament #OccupyChurch and #OccupyCBDTuesdays… basically seeking to root out all institutions and spaces that have supported this government. 

These protests are the bedrock for the future, a future of struggles for a better country. These Gen Zs have captured the aspirations of all Kenyans – they want government sleaze to end, they want taxes translated to services and representation, they want education and health prioritised, they want equality in access to opportunities, they don’t want to be talked at, they want to be able to feel and be Kenyan. And for this, they abuse the president when he opens his lying mouth, and they “salimia” their representatives and government workers when they display thievery opulence and greed. 

That is the Kenya of the future. Viva Kenya Viva!

The End of Hollow Men

Mordecai Ogada is a conservationist, and the author of Big Conservation Lie

The most telling reaction to the current unrest in Kenya is the consternation of our middle and upper classes. They have moved from regarding the protesters with disdain, to grudging respect and now to supplication, plaintively asking them “What do you want?”, “Who are your leaders?”, and “Can we talk?” This is the anatomy of Kenya’s tragedy. A legacy of imperialist delusion, indolent subservience, and now abject terror of an ‘unknown’ that has existed right before our eyes for a few years now. In a  and increasingly complex and fluid world, the future belongs solely to those who can learn and unlearn from history, a subject that the Kenyan state routinely treats with disdain, probably because a majority of ours is fabricated. The desperation to find an unseen foe and solutions from outside ourselves is a symptom of our spiritual emptiness as individuals and a Nation. Probably the most frightening thing to any discerning citizen is the state incoherence. The winter is now upon us, and those we thought would guide us through it are lost and bogged down in their own contradictions. The only seemingly positive outcome of the adversity we currently face is the fact that it has exposed Kenya for what it is, and paved the way for us to chart a better path.

No Stones, Just Phones and Placards

Mercy Oyugi

In contemplating the future of Kenya, I envision a path forged by the resilience and determination of Generation Z, who have courageously opposed the oppressive Finance Bill 2024 through the #OccupyParliament protests. These demonstrations represent a cohort of educated individuals grappling with unemployment, incensed by the government’s punitive tax policies. Their mantra of “no stones or violence, just phones and placards” encapsulates a peaceful yet potent stance against systemic corruption, embezzlement, and fiscal mismanagement.

Yet, the true impact of this movement on Kenya’s political landscape remains uncertain. The protests have been met with egregious police brutality, shootings, abductions, and loss of life, instilling profound trauma, anxiety, and fear among participants. Despite these adversities, Generation Z remains resolute. The callous and impassive response from the president following the shootings has only galvanized their resolve. It begs the question: Why did the government unleash such excessive force, resorting to live ammunition, tear gas, water cannons, and batons against peaceful demonstrators? Is their fear of losing control over a generation that refuses to be silenced driving these draconian measures?

Throughout these protests, I have personally experienced deep-seated apprehension and anguish witnessing the abductions and extrajudicial killings of innocent Kenyans standing up for their rights. The flagrant disregard for human dignity and welfare by those in power is reminiscent of darker chapters in Kenya’s history, such as the Moi regime, known for its oppressive tactics and extrajudicial killings. Comparing this to the current regime’s tactics to silence Generation Z through intimidation and abduction reveals troubling parallels.

The government’s inertia in the face of these atrocities, despite the loss of young lives, has stirred within me a profound sense of indignation and frustration. It underscores a prioritization of self-interest over the well-being of the nation’s youth, a disheartening echo of past authoritarian regimes. Nevertheless, amidst these challenges, the #The OccupyParliament movement signifies a pivotal moment for Kenya. It underscores a growing demand for transparency, accountability, and ethical governance. The solidarity and determination exhibited by protesters offer a glimpse into a future where justice and equity prevail.

Looking ahead, alternative voices and movements will undoubtedly proliferate, driven by a collective pursuit of a more just society. Their sustainability hinges on forging strategic partnerships and alliances to amplify their impact and safeguard their resilience against repression. Ultimately, I remain hopeful that these events will catalyze a broader societal reckoning a renewed commitment to a Kenya free from corruption, over-taxation, unemployment, and poor governance. This journey demands unwavering perseverance and a steadfast belief in the transformative power of civic engagement and collective action.

Protesting in the Age of AI

Juliet Atellah is a Researcher, Data and Investigative journalist 

I am inspired by the energy and determination of Generation Z in their protests for government accountability. As I was born in the 90s, I am witnessing the modern evolution of activism, where the legacy of Saba Saba converges with Technology and tools like Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) and the complexity of disinformation and misinformation. These elements are very important in making the government accountable, shaping public perception, and mobilizing support for the movement.

OSINT has empowered active citizens by allowing them to gather and analyze publicly available information to produce actionable data. This method has been vital for verifying information, exposing misconduct, and strategically planning protest actions. During recent protests, Gen Z – Baddies made activists in their soft life era – have used social media platforms to share live updates and videos, which are then cross-referenced with other sources to verify authenticity. They have also utilized social media to gather contact information for Members of Parliament “kuwasalimia” to send them warning messages to #RejectFinanceBill, which resulted in representatives like the Lang’ata MP voting against the bill.

The use of Live updates while on the protest, documenting every happenings has given real-time verification process ensures accurate information dissemination, countering false narratives propagated by the government or other politicians

Moreover, OSINT practitioners have uncovered instances of corruption, misuse of public funds, and human rights abuses by analyzing data from public sources. These findings are shared with the public and media outlets, putting pressure on the government to address these issues. It has highlighted discrepancies between government statements and actual events on the ground.

However, the protests have also been marked by the pervasive spread of disinformation and misinformation. Disinformation refers to deliberately false or misleading information spread with the intent to deceive, often used by governments and other actors to undermine the credibility of protests and activists. Misinformation, on the other hand, is false information spread without malicious intent, arising from misinterpretations of events, incorrect reporting, or unintentional exaggeration.

Disinformation campaigns create and disseminate fake news, doctored images, and manipulated videos designed to sow confusion and discredit the movement. For example, during the protests, fake social media accounts spread false reports of violence or criminal activity attributed to protestors, aiming to justify a heavy-handed government response. Misinformation can create panic, misguide public opinion, and distract from the core issues of the movement.

To counteract the effects of disinformation and misinformation, activists and media organizations can employ several strategies such as  Fact-Checking, Digital Literacy Campaigns, Transparency and Open Communication through X spaces. The integration of OSINT and the challenges posed by disinformation and misinformation highlight the intersection of technology and activism in modern protests. Social media platforms have revolutionized the way protests are organized and communicated, allowing for real-time updates, global reach, and the amplification of voices that might otherwise go unheard. However, they are also breeding grounds for disinformation and misinformation, requiring us to navigate this landscape carefully, leveraging the benefits while mitigating the risks.

The ongoing protests led by Generation Z, reflecting on Saba Saba Movement, exemplifies the evolving nature of activism. The use of OSINT empowers them to gather and verify information, exposing government misconduct and enhancing strategic planning. This should make Ruto resign or change his way of leadership eitherway, the movement has contended with the challenges posed by disinformation and misinformation, requiring vigilance and proactive measures to maintain the integrity of the cause.

As a millennial and part of this movement, I am heartened by the dedication and ingenuity of the younger generation. Their ability to harness technology for accountability, combined with lessons from historical movements like Saba Saba, offers hope for a more transparent and just society. Together, we continue the fight for accountability, ensuring that our government remains answerable to the people it serves.

A People United

Marion Munywoki

The #rejectfinancebill 2024 brought together different people across the country. The leaderless, tribeless, fearless revolution was not only televised but also popularised in social media. Despite the government-adjacent personalities terming it as digital wanking. Withstanding the attempts to infantilise it as a youth-driven revolution/ rebellion (potato-potato situation) and survived the division to depict it as a class issue. In no time, the voting class realized that under one common enemy under the universal but individual umbrella of bad governance.

That cemented the idea that we are all equal members of a community. Each individual has a responsibility towards the community as is the community towards an individual. The new face of demonstrations uprooted the tribalism agenda that had driven the political decisions and protests prior. Although the core of the movement is fundamentally tribeless, members were still urged to translate the finance bill into their respective mother tongues. By providing civic education to non-English speakers in rural areas through circulating videos, they explained the bill's meaning and its potential implications. The message resonated across different languages. Under one unified voice, the people of the republic rejected the bill before the President reluctantly dropped it.

The sense of mutual care of each other was not lost on people as it was evident through the blood donation appeals days prior and the days of the protests. People volunteered their services to build into the revolution. Medical stations on the ground on the days of. Non-protesters shielded the demonstrators, offering water and shelter when the police deployed tear gas. In the spirit of harambee, people crowdsourced funds to cover medical bills and funeral expenses for fallen patriots, a necessity due to the lack of reliable healthcare. The Law Society of Kenya provided legal services to bail out arrested protesters.

A few weeks before the protests broke off, the political class was witnessed making twenty million as a donation to a church. The youth took it upon themselves to sanctify the altar the occupythechurch. Keeping in mind the final pillar of Mutual Social Responsibility revolves around belief in a supernatural being. Regardless of one’s religious affiliation, youth challenged the churches by deplatforming politicians, highlighting the church’s perceived compliance. This scrutiny intensified and the church had to take a stance on what they believed in.

Mind Your Language

Victor Ashioya

The use of euphemisms and doublespeak represents another potent weapon in the arsenal of linguistic manipulation. In the context of the Finance Bill 2024, we see this manifesting in various ways. For instance, proponents of the bill might frame it as necessary for “economic reform” or “fiscal responsibility,” while opponents could label it as “oppressive taxation” or “economic burden.” These linguistic choices are not merely descriptive; they carry implicit judgments and emotional weight that can significantly influence public perception. 

The manipulation of language to rewrite or reframe historical events represents a particularly insidious form of control, one that has far-reaching implications for Kenya’s youth and their understanding of their nation’s past and present. In the context of the Finance Bill 2024 protests, we see attempts to draw parallels with past

political movements or to frame the current situation within a larger historical narrative. This can serve to either legitimize or delegitimize the protests, depending on how the historical comparisons are framed.

As Gen Z comes of age and begins to assume greater political influence in Kenya, they stand at a crossroads that will significantly shape the nation’s future. Their linguistic adaptability and digital savvy offer hope for a more transparent, inclusive, and dynamic political discourse. However, there is also a risk that some within this generation, as they gain power, may be tempted to perpetuate the very manipulative communication tactics they once opposed.

In conclusion, the weaponization of language in Kenyan politics, as evidenced by the discourse surrounding the Finance Bill 2024, presents a significant challenge to democratic discourse, particularly for the Gen Z population that will shape the country’s future. The complex interplay of framing, euphemism, historical

revisionism, and digital communication creates a linguistic minefield that young people must navigate as they engage with their nation’s political process.

A Tale of Two Tuesdays

Wanjira Kariuki

Being unemployed for two years can take a toll on you. Being unemployed and underemployed

in an alternating fashion for two years can hollow you out. Being unemployed, underemployed

and punished for it can radicalize you, change and rearrange you. This was my gateway drug into the world of the Finance Bill 2024, and even if it was not in the bill (it is in SHIF), my research led me there, and down the rabbit hole I went, each clause stoking the fiery frustration of being a young Kenyan struggling to survive, with a mounting wall of pressure looming over any embers of hope, and constant dreams to thrive brought down in strife. So when I saw the poster, it was a no-brainer, I had to go out- this was my chance to express my frustration. That Tuesday gave rise to the wave of peaceful protestors that flooded the CBD on Thursday, ten times more than we were on the 18th, but we had accomplished something, we were seen, maybe not heard, and definitely not respected but seen all the same, and for the first time in two years.

Tuesday the 25th of June 2024 was a sensory overload. The tempo of the gas was much faster, much more frequent, interspersed with the sporadic ricochet of bullets, live and otherwise, amplified by the cacophony of sirens and shouts, cries and screams- those of triumph and those of turmoil. On this Tuesday, marching down Ngong road (due to lack of available means of transport into the CBD), chanting and singing, absorbing new groups to our crowd, new voices to our ever expanding crescendo, my ears became attuned to the sound of breathing, of breath, of the inhales and exhales, both individual and collective. I hope to never forget, the CBD looked almost apocalyptic, with plumes of smoke rising from various points of the picturesque skyline. I thankfully lost my sense of smell (the teargas was relatively intense this Tuesday), and I do not recall feeling anything other than the burn on my skin.

Tales of A Teargas Baddie

Wanjiru Kingori

 All through the goal of many Gen Zs has been to leave. Leave the country. Leaving to search for better opportunities, a better life. But in a few weeks, we’ve moved from a group not conversant with the knowledge of the constitution or even the stages that a bill passes through, to the radicalization and information that was circulating throughout X and Tiktok (formerly Twitter).

We woke up fueled by nothing but rage, because it was declared the ‘7 days of rage’. Rage plus courage to come out and protest, not knowing what awaits one. I didn’t relent. We sang in our high school song “Backward never, forward we go on”. After all we come in peace only armed with our phones, eat KFC and later on order our Ubers back home.

The public transport vehicles were not available at the respective stages. Well, I could already see all over social media that major entry roads to the CBD were blocked. Luckily, I did find a matatu to town, one filled with charter and one could easily tell that if not all but most of the passengers were equally headed for the protest.

Never go to a protest alone. 

The first task was to locate my friends who were all the way in Kimathi Street. I had to figure out a way in which I would dodge the water cannons and the abhorrence of the tear gas canisters being launched at us. Not forgetting the pinch pocketers who were very vigilant in taking advantage of the running and stampedes.

Just around Archives, another young lady approached me, requesting that I take a video of her carrying her placard and chanting, “Ruto Must Go”. I abided. She later told me that we should move more to the upper sides of town, her exact words being, “Heri tuende hizi sides za GPO ju huku si unaona watu ni wa ghetto”. But did it matter? We were all here for one cause, to protect and address the anarchies of over taxation, unemployment, and corruption.

Nonetheless, we walked. The strong fragrance of change- teargas, bringing us to tears and sneezes. The mask truly helped. Anyway, due to the crowd and running, I lost my acquaintance but luckily found my group of friends. Well let’s say the maandamano was equally a reunion, where most of us got to meet and catch up with some friends that we hadn’t seen in ages.

We made a pit stop and went in to have some drinks at a dingy pathway. We took some shots of gin. It was a Kenyans for Kenyans initiative and a lot of good Samaritans were noted handing out water bottles, to quench the teargas, some provided smokies.

Crowds were now making their way towards Parliament. Police still continued launching tear gases at us, but I feel like it pumped us more. A boost. Adrenaline. Then the vandalism started and the looters strike. Literally a taint to the protests which was meant to be peaceful and harmless.

Most of us did reach home safe and sound. In my case it ignited a flame of patriotism that I never knew existed inside me. It felt good to stand for something. Be out in the streets, demonstrating my freedom of expression. Not hiding behind a screen, but being on the ground. And would I do it again? Yes, a hundred-fold.

The Revolution Will Be Live Tweeted

Yvonne Murimi

I have to admit, the spicy air we are breathing twice a week smells like hope. It smells like vivacity and life. For the first time in a long, long time, I feel like there is hope. There is hope for my future in my country. With the last elections being heavily characterized by voter apathy, at the same politicians, with the same tactics and the same empty manifestos, the vibrance in the air is unmistakably different. The Finance Bill 2024 is a document characterized by abnormal policy changes, aimed at budgeting corruption and lining already velveted state pockets. From plunging a majority of Kenyan menstruating folk directly into period poverty, through h to over taxation with absolutely nothing to show for it, lack of proper healthcare structures including insurance, removal of pre-and ante-natal care and so many other disastrous economic policies, if passed it would spell a death sentence for our collective futures.

However, we refuse to sit down and let our futures disintegrate before our very eyes. Our grandparents, freedom fighters who are still alive today, have walked the streets with us. For those who cannot, they have spoken the same blessings over us that their mothers spoke over them. It is indeed a damning indictment on this country’s leadership that they successfully ended the white man’s reign, only to work to end it again. It was said that the revolution will be televised; I raise you one. The Revolution Will Be Live Tweeted! As some of us play a delightful game of cat and mouse with the police, others are… Encouraging elected representatives to do their jobs. I have to admit that for me, as well as many others, a sense of active patriotism has come upon me with a quickness. Being part of something bigger than oneself has felt like welcoming the winds of change with open arms. We walk in the footsteps of our ancestors, both living and dead, fighting for the same thing they fought for, with blood, sweat and tears. For those we have lost to state-sponsored violence, rest well. We will forever remember you.