Anti-government protests persist despite Ruto’s olive branch

LIVE VIDEO: Anti-government protests

With no resignations or sackings of senior government and police officials, continued abductions and no arrests of trigger-happy police officers, the Gen Z who have been on the streets protesting for the past two weeks have vowed to continue their demonstrations.

Their protests, initially aimed at opposing the controversial Finance Bill 2024, which has since been withdrawn by President William Ruto, were largely peaceful but later turned chaotic after the youth gained access to Parliament last Tuesday.

While they achieved their goal of having the Bill withdrawn altogether, the Gen Z say they want several changes in the way things are done in the country.

This is despite the failure of their plans to march and occupy the State House last Thursday.

Through their numerous online platforms, they have vowed to continue their picketing against what they see as rampant corruption, poor governance and unfulfilled promises by the Kenya Kwanza government.

The protesters have barricaded the road using a roap at Capital Round About, Kisii Town.

The protesters have barricaded the road using a rope at Capital Round About in Kisii town on July 2, 2024.

Photo credit: Ruth Mbula | Nation Media Group

“Occupy CBD Tuesday. We call on everyone to come out and join the nationwide strike. Gen Z(s) are granting all hardworking Kenyans a day off,” a poster circulating on social media platforms stated.

Their protests come amid an olive branch extended to them by President Ruto, who invited them for a dialogue to address their issues.

A number of young people gather in Kondele, ready to stage anti-government protests.

A number of young people gather in Kondele, ready to stage anti-government protests.

Photo credit: Alex Odhiambo | Nation Media Group

Speaking at a media roundtable at State House on Sunday evening, President Ruto said he was willing to meet the Gen Z on any platform they are comfortable with and listen to them.

The platforms, Dr Ruto said, could be on social media including TikTok or even through an X Space forum.

The President even asked the youth to choose someone to set up the X Space on either Thursday or Friday this week as he wants to discuss "taxes, unemployment, corruption and all issues".

Open to having an engagement

“I am hearing that the young people are saying we don’t want a multisectoral forum, maybe we should have an engagement with the President on X. I am open to having an engagement with the young people on a forum they are comfortable with. If they want me to engage with them on X, I will be there. I want us to discuss taxation, I want us to discuss unemployment, corruption, all issues,” he said.

This comes after the youth, who have no known leader and insist they are partyless, rejected an initial plan announced by State House last Saturday for the formation of a National Multi-Sectoral Forum (NMSF).

This forum was to include religious organisations among other stakeholders to address the concerns of the youth (Gen Z) who have been the face of anti-government anger.

However, Gen Z have said they will not attend the X Space meeting until all police officers involved in the deaths of their colleagues during the protests are behind bars.

Washington DC, USA

At the same time, Kenyans living in Washington DC, USA, over the weekend rejected President Ruto's plans to engage the public through the National Multi-Sectoral Forum and demanded the immediate release of all those arrested during the nationwide protests.

Protestors along the Moi Avenue in Mombasa on July 2, 2024.

Protestors march along Moi Avenue in Mombasa on July 2, 2024.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

As the Gen Z plan to return to the streets, the Nairobi business community has raised concerns.

Speaking to journalists in Nairobi, Bernard Mwangi, a businessman, said they had suffered losses over the past two weeks of protests against the Finance Bill 2024.

“At some point, the demonstrations appeared to be positive as they were fighting for our economic rights but on Thursday, they turned negative as hooligans stormed into our businesses and made away with our things,” he said.

He said those who steal look different from the Gen Z youth who started the demonstrations.

Mr Mwangi also urged the youth to listen to President Ruto who has made it clear that he wants to hear them out. 

Traders at Imenti House

The Nation understands that traders at Imenti House held a meeting last night to plan how they will counter any attempts by protesters to loot their shops in light of last week's damage.

Each trader will be wearing a reflector that was distributed yesterday and will be armed with clubs that were bought yesterday.

"Any new developments will be updated here. Unity is strength! Keep praying. The security of our shops and our safety is priority number one," one of the traders' leaders wrote on a WhatsApp group.