Genuine talks solution to deadly national crisis

Though it is not one of the national public holidays, July 7 is a significant date in the country’s social and political development. It has its place in the watershed struggle for democratic rights in the 1980s and 1990s.

This would culminate in the promulgation of the progressive 2010 Constitution. As Kenyans reflect on the gains from what is popularly referred to as the Saba Saba agitation against single-party dictatorship and human rights abuses, a new movement has emerged. Generation Z is literally forcing the country back to the drawing board for vital reforms.

There are echoes of Saba Saba (July 7, 1990) in today’s campaign by the young generation that has seen anti-government protests, in which scores have been killed, hundreds injured and property destroyed.

However, President William Ruto has shown willingness to discuss with youth the problems bedevilling the country and seek solutions. On X (formerly Twitter), the President fielded questions on Friday, and pledged to stop the police brutality that has been blamed for the deaths.

In 1990, the Young Turks of the time waged the fight for the “Second Liberation”, with daring anti-government rallies. The new struggle is more complex, as it is being waged both on the streets and online. As has been pointed out time and again, this is the only country that all of us have and whatever our differences, it must be safeguarded. Arrests, detention and police brutality, as happened in the 1990s and today are not the solution. Genuine talks involving all the stakeholders are the only way forward.

When push came to shove, the late President Daniel arap Moi climbed down, leading to the repeal of Section 2(A) of the Constitution and the restoration of multi-party democracy. Similarly, President Ruto has had to drop the contentious Finance Bill, 2024 that has been roundly rejected by the people for containing “punitive and oppressive” taxes despite having been passed in Parliament.

A return to the strong-arm tactics of the past will not work. The leaders must engage in genuine discussions with youth and others in the search for tangible solutions to national problems.