Gen Z protests led from the grave


Massive Gen Z protests in Nairobi, Kenya

from MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
Kenya Bureau
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – APPARENTLY, the inspiration behind the most severe youth protests in Kenya is a businessman shot dead eight years ago.

Jacob Juma, the entrepreneur, was an opponent of government corruption.

He was shot dead on May 16, in 2016.

It is alleged his assassination was a bit to halt cases in which he was fighting graft.

State security was implicated, considering he had a number of tussles with the government over allegedly corrupt deals.

Leading to his killing in the capital Nairobi, Juma sued a state corporation for about $5 million in compensation for a breach of contract to supply 40 000 tonnes of maize in 2004.

He also took the government to court in 2015 for revoking his company’s mining licence, with him alleging this was because he had refused to pay an $800 000 bribe.

Juma had also been critical of the governing Jubilee Coalition about corruption.

He was seen as backing perennial opposition leader, Raila Odinga, and was vocal about the alleged disappearance of government money raised from the sale of Eurobonds in 2014.

Eight years after his assassination, Juma is synonymous with the protests unraveling in the East African country, led by youth, affectionately known as Gen Z.

They stormed the streets last Thursday and flocked churches on Sunday to express displeasure at the Finance Bill.

“We would rather die on our feet than live on our knees,” vowed a youngster at a pulpit in the eastern county of Meru.

When Juma was murdered, he had around 35 000 followers. Since the protests, the followers have more than doubled to over 59 000.

These protests have sent shivers locally and beyond borders in a continent where youth are worst affected by crises bedeviling Africa.

The Kenyan government appears to have underestimated the power of the youth, with some officials previously disparaging the youngsters as having the luxury of Uber to attend demonstrations and using iPhones once they get to poorly attended protest venues.

Government is suffering a kingsize headache as the leaders of the protests as youth storm the streets in protest against the Finance Bill, the latest in a series of regulations to tax Kenyans.

The Kenya Youths Union claimed Juma as the powder keg.

“He (Juma) is also our sponsor and mentor in this revolution. If you need to abduct anybody consider our leader Jacob Juma,” it dared.

This is a ploy by the agitated youth to avoid the government singling out the revolution leaders.

“They killed his body but his spirit is still on. Jacob Juma’s Spirit is the main mobilizer of Gen Z,” said Vitalis Msafi in Nairobi.

Stephen Ochieng, a critic, scoffed at the government’s offer to hold talks with the Gen Z movement.

The administration of President William Ruto has in recent days succumbed to the demands of the youths regarding the Finance Bill.

However, critics of the protestors believe without a viable leadership structure, this is not feasible.

While inspired by Juma, reports indicate entertainer, Eddie Butita, or critic of the government, Dennis Itumbi, are behind the demonstrations. The pair remains mum on the protests.

“Ruto wants to have a dialogue with Gen Z but Gen Z doesn’t have a leader,” argued a government proponent.

John Tanui, the Principal Secretary – State Department for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Digital Economy, said, “Gen Z have raised valid concerns, which we are committed to listening to in order to better inform government action. This is the most talented, tech-savvy demographic with great potential.”

Ruto stated, “The courage and unity that our youth have exhibited in the management of our country’s affairs is encouraging. We will engage them to discuss their concerns and build a better Kenya for everyone.”

However, some Gen Z members are unimpressed and have in recent days agitated for the resignation of Ruto, in power since 2022.

Jacob Juma

Gen Z protests have reverberated around the continent.

“Power to you, the young people of Kenya. You are speaking up and your voices are being heard far beyond the Kenyan borders,” Bobi Wine, the Uganda opposition leader stated.

South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) also expressed solidarity.

Anthony Kimani, MP of the United Democratic Alliance, which is part of the ruling coalition, said the emergence of Gen Z as a force in advocacy and governance had shown a remarkable shift towards unity and inclusivity, transcending ethnic and tribal barriers that had long divided Kenyans.

“This new generation exemplifies a forward-thinking approach, prioritizing common goals and shared values over narrow, divisive identities,” he said.

“Our Gen Z clearly demonstrates a more progressive vision for our nation’s future, setting an example that all leaders should aspire to follow.”

Two people had been killed at the time of reporting, in the worst protests since the opposition took to the streets against the rising cost of living in East Africa’s largest economy.

– CAJ News

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