Return to sender: Youth reject Ruto-Raila multi-sectoral dialogue


Protesters march along Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi during anti-Finance Bill demos on June 25, 2024.

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Youth accuse Mr Odinga of attempting to hijack their movement by siding with their oppressors.
  • The Gen Z said for the past weeks, they have fought for their rights and have paid the a big price.

The youth have rejected the move by President William Ruto to co-opt political players in a planned multi-sectoral dialogue aimed at addressing issues raised by Kenyans in the wake of the recent anti-government protests.

The latest development comes after the President and Azimio leader Raila Odinga announced that they had agreed on a broad-based political arrangement to chart the future from the current situation the country is facing.

However, the involvement of political players in the six-day dialogue forum has elicited a major backlash from different groups representing the youth who have accused the political class of hijacking their movement.

President Ruto held talks with the opposition leaders before the signing ceremony. 

Photo credit: PSCU

In a terse but hard-hitting statement on Tuesday, the youth accused the former premier of attempting to hijack their movement by siding with their oppressors.

The youth said it will not be business as usual as they are prepared to drain the swamp and nothing will silence them.

“Dear Raila Odinga, your decision today, to stand with our oppressors validated our choice of not wanting you involved in our protests from the beginning,” read in part the statement.

“We will not allow you to hijack our movement to satisfy your political greed. You do not speak for us and today you have shown that you stand with the thieves and killers. We will not be silenced. We will drain the swamp with you in it. This is not business as usual,” the statement added.

The Gen Z said for the past weeks, they have fought for their rights, both in the streets and online, and have paid the price with dozens abducted, tortured and killed.

“This was not in vain. We will not dialogue with our oppressors. We want change and we want it now.”

President Ruto had said that the six-day forum, which is set to run between July 15 and 20, 2024, will propose the way forward for the country. 

“This is the result of consultations we have gone through this morning and we look forward to beginning the forum Monday next week,” said the Head of State.

Mr Odinga added that the move to agree on dialogue follows extensive consultations with the President.

“We have agreed that a dialogue is the way forward out of the crisis we are having today in our country. We have agreed to give people an opportunity to be heard so that a lasting solution can be found. We want it to be an engaging conversation on the way forward that we deal with fundamental issues that are affecting our society today,” said the ODM party leader.

The Azimio leader said that dialogue is the only way forward that the government can use to move the country out of the crisis.

He said that the country is ready to hear the grievances that the Gen Zs have been raising in recent days.

President Ruto (centre) displays a copy of the new IEBC law on July 9, 2024 at the KICC. With him are (from left): Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Amason Kingi (Senate Speaker), Moses Wetangula (National Assembly Speaker), Rigathi Gachagua (Deputy President), Raila Odinga (ODM) and Prime CS Musalia Mudavadi. 

Photo credit: PSCU

“We need to start by identifying and secondly coming up with solutions to these problems. We think that this forum will help us to move forward,” Mr Odinga said.

Mr Odinga also said that the issues of unemployment, corruption, debts, and management of the economy are among the issues that will be addressed in the forum.

For his part, Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka said the country is at a crossroads and there is no way the Gen Z revolution can be wished away.

“A lot of Kenyans wanted us to open the dialogue space but that has now been done by Gen Z. If we are not careful, all of us will be thrown out by the Gen Z as they say they have come of age and they are no longer the leaders of tomorrow,” said Mr Musyoka.

According to the President, the panel will be made up of 150 members who represent various stakeholders, out of which 50 will be the youth.

The remaining 100 slots will represent other sectors including the religious community, civil society, the professional groups, as well as the political parties.

The President said that the forum is mandated to come with a proposal on the way forward for the country.

However, another statement from leaderless Gen Z and Millennials said the youth are no longer content with mere dialogue or promises but want immediate and concrete actions.

The group said they are frustrated and disappointed in the current state of affairs in the country as their concerns have been met with indifference.

“We represent a generation that values results over rhetoric. Our stance is clear: we are leaderless, partyless and tribeless. Our allegiance is to the future of this nation, and we demand our voices be heard and our concerns be addressed with the urgency they deserve,” the statement read in part.