'May God protect you'. How parents are supporting anti-William Ruto protests

Anti-government protests

A protesters displays the shell casing of a live bullet during the anti-government protests in Kangemi, Nairobi on July 2, 2024.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Early Tuesday morning, a peculiar event took place – a woman in Nyalenda Estate, Kisumu County, was recorded praying for her son as he prepared to join the protests against the Finance Bill.

With her left hand on the head of the young man, Stephen Otieno, who was kneeling, Alice Atieno, 67, asked God to protect her son. 

“You are aware that there are devils called teargas on the street, but I know if we call upon your name, it shall be well. That is why I am asking that as he runs around with his friends, shield him under your rock. I promise to praise and honour you if you bring him back home safely,” she said, and several voices in the background responded with a thunderous "Amen!"

In an interview with the Nation, Atieno said her prayers were prompted by the fact that her son was injured last year during street protests over the high cost of living.

“He was hit by a rubber bullet,” she said.

Last year, her son had failed to inform her of his plans to join the demonstrations and she only found out about the shooting from her other children. So, when 27-year-old Otieno informed his mother of his intention to return to the streets earlier this week, she decided to say a prayer for his safety.

"I asked him to stop by my house in the morning for a prayer before going to the streets," she said.

In the video, which has since gone viral, Atieno can also be heard praying for peace and stability for the entire nation. She said she saw no reason to discourage her son from joining the protests when his peers were out there fighting for a better country.

“I offered a prayer and he came back home in the evening safely. We also offered yet another thanksgiving prayer for his safe return,” she said.

Atieno explained that in the past, her son never thought it wise to inform her before going out to demonstrate.

The mother of eight said she was pained to see on the news that more than 30 young Kenyans had lost their lives in the nationwide protests.

“After the prayers, my heart was at peace. I knew whatever my son was doing was right, fighting for his beloved country,” she said. 

“We cannot stop the young people because they have stepped out to fight for what is right. The cost of living is so high, that we can barely afford meals. What I want to ask the government as a mother is that the government should stop harming our children, the government should treat them like their own children. The president can only rule when they are alive."

Atieno, who sells vegetables at Kibuye Market in Kisumu is among a number of older Kenyans who have openly supported the protests led by the Gen-Zs.

In Kisumu, some youths who spoke to the Nation said they have received both direct and indirect support from older people.

Otieno said he was one of the beneficiaries of food and water donated by strangers who pledged their support.

“In the morning, we received some funds to buy water from a random man who was driving,” he said.

Otieno also claimed that they had received food from another man who congratulated them on their bravery.

“Their support strengthens and reassures us that we are fighting a worthy course," he said. “I have never participated in political protests in the past, my focus has always been on demonstrations against the high cost of living, police brutality and the 2024 finance bill.”

Boniface Akach, a human rights activist in Kisumu, said the protesters had received massive support from the public.

He said they had been given more than 300 bottles of sugar cane juice and water, while members of the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacist and Dentist Union, Kisumu branch, had offered free medical services.

We also received "free legal assistance from the Law Society of Kenya. As we speak, not a single genuine protester has been locked behind bars,” said Akach.