The Zakayo Shuka Youth Rebellion in Kenya is Something Never Seen Before

21 mins read

A lot of things happened on the second day of Kenyan youth action to stop the Finance Bill 2024 that must make President Ruto shake furiously in his pants as he watches Kenyans fed up with his taxes and the whole budget for 2024/25 bring the kind of protests never seen by his government or at any other time in our history as a country.

This only happened when Kenyans were fighting the British colonial government where everybody was doing whatever they could do.

From what is going on which all citizens are seeing live in front of them, Kenya has a revolution in its hands and if not handled with care by the Ruto regime taking the full responsibility to address the demands of the citizens without gimmicks of fake withdrawal of this and that clause or outright stupid taxes like that on bread in the budget and leaving the whole devilish budget intact this could explode completely in President William Ruto’s face.

One thing that surprised many Kenyans is that right in Ruto’s hometown of Eldoret where most people voted for him and the home to his wheelbarrow monument as a symbol of UDA success, the youth came out demanding that Finance Bill 2024 be abandoned and as a sign of their frustration, they brought down the wheelbarrow. That could must have put tears in Ruto’s heart. And the number of young people in Eldoret was pretty big. Nobody including William Ruto expected anything like that in his backyard.

The second very disturbing angle of the protests against his taxes that must have shocked William Ruto beyond belief is seeing his presidential motorcade in Garissa being humiliated there instead of the usual crowd of supporters singing for him, the presidential endless stream of huge cars were met by youth demanding the Finance Bill 2024 be dumped.

When the president moves around, which is all they do it is to show power and authority and to mesmerize the citizens. In this case, Ruto would have been very happy if he was received by a cheering crowd in Garissa even as protests against him were going on elsewhere. The exact opposite happened and in Garissa of all places.

If that is what Kenyans are doing to the president and his entourage in Garissa, the MPs passing this bill must be truly shaking because they know what Kenyans will do with them if they ever show up anywhere in their communities. They will find that out very soon.

One thing that is now clear is that the only public consultations going on about Finance Bill 2024 are the rallies organized by the Kenyan youth and the clear message regarding the budget that they are communicating to Kenyans. Ruto and the MPs idea of public consultation is MPs shouting about their love for Ruto in parliament. Well, they are going to learn about public participation from the young Kenyans if they can open their eyes. It is not going to be pretty for them.

What started as anger on TikTok about a controversial finance bill has morphed into a revolt – without being organised by political parties.

The government of President William Ruto has managed to do what generations of politicians in Kenya have failed to do – unite huge numbers of Kenyans beyond ethnicity, region, and party to fight for a better Kenya for everybody.

Peaceful protesters displaying placards in Embu. [Muriithi Mugo, Standard]

Finance Bill 2024 protest in Nakuru City. [Daniel Chege, Standard]

One really frightening thing about these protests on June 20, 2024 is that it was everywhere in Kenya and from the looks of it each was organized by the local population. That is deadly for the Ruto regime. The Zakayo Shuka rebellion has a system where all they choose is the date for action and in every community the youth are ready and they organize themselves and the action is on.

That is how national revolutions take place. Everybody is ready to take action and they don’t need any guidance on what to do because they know exactly what they want and also know that they will not get that unless they fight very seriously for it.

Uasin Gishu County youth stage anti-finance bill peaceful protests along the Eldoret – Uganda Highway in Eldoret town.

Residents protest in Kakamega town against Finance Bill 2024.

The Ruto government thought the protests were going to be some tiny group of young Kenyans in Nairobi for one day and they will go back to their Tik Tok and forget about Finance Bill 2024 and Ruto will pass his budget of taxing Kenyans to the bone and everything is done. What the regime and the rude and noisy MPs and their political supporters are seeing is a complete shock.

The protests have spread all across the country in a matter of days and they have very clear demands. They are speaking in one voice from Nairobi, Kakamega, Kisumu, Embu, Garissa, Mombasa, Kisii, Nyeri, Eldoret and everywhere. The protestors have absolutely no fear of the highly armed police everywhere hitting them with teargas all the time. Those are very dangerous signs if you are the government trying to bully the country to accept the King at State House as their supreme ruler.

There is no tribal element in this youth rebellion whatsoever and that has deprived the politicians the luxury of turning everything into a tribal warfare. It is not about the Luos and Luhyas and Pwani people fighting Ruto because of his tribe.

These Kenyan youth are eliminating tribalism from the struggles for a better country when everybody can get a better quality of life after the William Ruto crazy taxes are brought down. The embarrassing for Kenyan politicians is that the youth rebellion has now confined tribalism to MPs and they vote according to their tribes while in parliament.

Outside bunge ukabila is being killed. The MPs can have it in parliament but when they come out of there, those voting for Finance Bill 2024 are going to face very hostile people from their own communities.

Outside of parliament, everybody wants the same thing which is a better quality of life and that has nothing to do with anybody’s tribe or region.

Also if you look around in our continent struggles are often reduced to ethnicity and religion. In the DRC is one group fighting to grab this region or that. In Sudan, everything boils down to ethnicity and religion. So this is probably one of the few times in Africa that young people from every part of the country are saying enough is enough is enough. The Kenyan youth are changing that in a brilliant way.

Also it looks like everything is spontaneous but the message is very clear everywhere. And that message is growing in focus where they started demanding that the Finance Bill 2024 be scrapped and redone to a point where now they want William Ruto out of office hence the Zakayo Shuka demand which they are now rallying around.

The young folks have figured the MPs are useless and will do whatever Ruto wants them to do and they have realized they have to take the battle to Ruto himself and they look very serious about that. At the rate these young people are going they could form a political party called Zakayo Shuka to go head to head with Ruto and his KK.

One thing which is certain is that the election slogan for the battle at elections in 2027 will be Zakayo Shuka. The other big element arising from the whole operation is that the Kenyan youth must now be realizing that one reason they are treated like trash by this government is that most young people do not vote and Ruto would care less for them.

As a matter of fact Ruto doesn’t even care for the hustlers he mobilized to vote for him. He needed their votes and now he just wants them to pay his taxes on everything and they have not seen any of the jobs they were promised.

The voting patterns could change very dramatically and it is going to start with these young Kenyans doing everything first to register as voters for 2027 and then turning up and to vote when the time comes. Kenyans will be even more surprised than they are now when Kenyan youth launch a nationwide campaign to get all young people registered to vote and that starts with them making sure that they have ID cards.

And with the Gen Z tactics, they will be going to get IDs and to voter registration offices with their cell phones to capture and report any mischief to deny them a chance to register.

With this youth rebellion, every protestor is a journalist with their phones and that is scary in a country where one tool of repression is to hide everything so nobody knows what is going on. The sheer smartness of how these Kenyans are running their protest is astonishing quite frankly. They bring that to the 2027 elections and medieval politics in Kenya will be on its deathbed.

The youth are going to campaign for voter registration in their social media and push each other to register as voters and that is when our entitled politicians will freak out because they will know there are some 4-5 million new young voters out there who could determine the entire electoral results in 2027.

Kisumu anti-Finance Bill 2024 protests.

Demonstrators match along Kisii Hospital Road to protest against Finance Bill 2024

Nakuru residents took to the streets to protest against the punitive taxes proposed in the 2024 Finance Bill on June 20, 2024.

Zakayo Come Down, Kisumu Demonstrators Against Finance Bill Chant

KISUMU, Kenya, Jun 20 – A man in Kisumu on several occasions imitates the biblical Zakayo by climbing a top tree during demonstrations against the Finance Bill 2024.

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Mombasa to protest against the Finance Bill 2024.

They moved along the streets of Mombasa before camping outside the Coast Provincial Headquarters.

The most important and visible aspect of the youth rebellion going on right now is that the protestors are very peaceful.

Even though they are being teargassed ruthlessly and being knocked down and thrown in moving vehicles to be taken to police cells, the young people in the streets have not committed any act of violence. No shops are being broken. Nobody has attacked any police officers.

In this funny case below in Nairobi, the peaceful protestors simply surrounded police in their car and the young folks were just singing and chanting their political demands and the cops had to just get out of there. It is a practice that is earning these young Kenyans respect all across the country and that behaviour also helps them to attract many new protestors everywhere in the country.

Armed with their smartphones, they live-streamed the intense confrontations with officers.

The protests, dubbed “occupy parliament”, have been co-ordinated and mobilized on social media in contrast to those led and sponsored by politicians.

The bravery of the Kenyan youth in the face of massive state violence against them is unprecedented in our county and it is a great step forward for Kenya. It is so important how they support each other facing the Ruto state violence against them. These are very special people in our country for a generation.

“I’m here slaving for a country I love. It is the first time I’m doing this because my parents are old and they cannot do it any more,” Ken Makilya, a 24-year-old university student, told the BBC.

AFP Protesters run from tear gas in Nairobi, Kenya - 18 June 2024

Police used tear gas and water cannon to stop the protesters reaching parliament

“This is my first demonstration. I hope it will be the last. I hope things change after this,” said Naserian Kasura, who opposed the proposal to tax sanitary pads.

“I am not going, I am not co-operating, why are you arresting me?” one protester was heard saying in a viral video as she refused to board a police vehicle.

Another compelling aspect of the demonstrations is that even after they are arrested, surrounded bu cops or hauled into police trucks and are being held tight by the cops the protestors are still singing and holding their fists up as they wave to their colleagues as they have their own social media coverage every minute.

The protestors have no fear at all and that must scare the cops to no end. And the demos have unprecedented level of equal gender participation and respect. That is a big deal for our country.

Reuters Protesters in a police vehicle in Nairobi, Kenya - 18 June 2024

No political affiliations or ethnic alignments has been mentioned – just a clear determination by the protesters to be heard.

EPA A Kenyan protester holds a placard during protests in Nairobi

One tactic that has forced MPs to take notice is the list of their phone numbers that has been shared across social media with the message “SMS your MP”.

MP Stephen Mule told local media that his phone was spammed with more than 30,000 messages from young Kenyans asking him to reject the bill. Other legislators have also complained that their phones have become practically unusable because of the number of texts they were receiving.

Local media have also picked up the online conversations, amplifying the voices of protest and issues about the cost of living.

Mutuma Mathiu, a veteran journalist, said Tuesday’s events had shifted the dynamics of Kenyan politics: “Protest politics found a new fulcrum and a new and different generation of Kenyans found their rather loud voice.”

Popular political commentator Pauline Njoroge agreed: “They are not just brave, they are also very cool and well spoken. Today’s youth-led protest has been the most peaceful yet very successful.”

Prof Kivutha Kibwana, a law scholar and a former county governor, urged dialogue in his post on X: “The most dangerous thing for a government to do is to declare war on its youth.”

Dr Willy Mutunga, a former chief justice, said young people across the world had a common enemy in “their respective ruling classes, warning: “The uprising is on the horizon.”

The government has long held fears that social media could be used to promote discord and has pushed for stricter oversight by regulators.

And the protesters do not intend to be cowed.

“We are not scared, we are not moved and this is only the beginning of the revolution. We are coming, we are many and in good numbers,” said Ms. Indimuli from the sidelines of Tuesday’s demonstration.

Last but not least, William Ruto must be scared to near death thinking of what these protestors against his Finance Bill 2024 will do after the president and his clown MPs in parliament pass the Finance Bill 2024 in parliament. Ruto wants the bill passed next Tuesday, June 25, 2024.

Maybe Ruto already has plans to travel to some foreign country on Wednesday the day after his Finance Bill 2024 is passed. One thing Ruto and his KK chaps know for a fact is that there are going to be some monumental actions taken after they impose their Finance Bill on Kenyans.

Adongo Ogony is a Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada

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