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Activist reveals youth's key role in Finance Bill protests

Nairobi
 Wanjiru Wanjira, activist and co-founder of the Mathare Social Justice Centre.

An activist has revealed how Tuesday’s demonstrations against the passing of the Finance Bill 2024 in Kenya stood out as a unique and noteworthy moment.

 Unlike previous protests, the protests were dominated by the youth—millennials and Generation Z—who took to the streets without any political leaders mobilising them.

Wanjiru Wanjira, activist and co-founder of the Mathare Social Justice Centre, noted the bravery of the young protesters.

 In an interview on Spice FM, she expressed surprise at the turnout.

“We planned, but we didn’t expect that things would unfold the way they did,” she said. 

The demonstrations were organised through online mobilisation, a testament to the youth’s determination.

 “It was a major win realising that there was nobody but us,” she noted. 

 Their intention, she noted, was peaceful—a show of civic engagement in the heart of the city.

However, clashes erupted when police intervened. Tear gas filled the air, and some protesters were arrested. 

The chants that echoed through the streets were unexpected, diverging from the planned anti-government protest. 

Despite this, Wanjira emphasised that it remained a peaceful gathering, with participants singing patriotic songs and refraining from property damage.

A video emerged showing Wanjira in a confrontation with officers in the Central Business District (CBD). 

She believes the police were caught off guard by the unexpected turn of events. 

“This was the most peaceful protest,” she asserted, “and it caused no havoc or property destruction,” she says. 

Notably, CBD traders supported the demonstrators by providing water and other services. But what drove this unprecedented youth-led protest? 

According to Wanjira, politicians have failed in their duty to represent citizens effectively. Instead, they prioritise their allegiance to the president. 

She noted frustration stems from unfulfilled campaign promises, including the “hustler” narrative used to woo voters adding, “Now, two years later, disillusionment prevails.”

Wanjira sees a shift in public participation. The Kenyan youth who took to the streets understand their constitutional mandate. 

“Yesterday,” she said, “it was Kenyan youth putting leaders in check.” 

The demos, she believes, marks a trajectory that will reshape the country’s future.

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