'Free Billy': KOT takes over X space to rally against Finance Bill 2024

Content creator Billy Simani disappeared on Friday. [X]

A nearly six-hour X space on Saturday, June 22, titled “Good Morning Kenya: Where is Crazy Nairobian,” began as a call for the release of a Kenyan content creator but quickly morphed into a discussion on the controversial Finance Bill 2024.

By 12:30 p.m., the space had attracted over 50,000 listeners, including accounts linked to politicians and the government spokesperson’s office.

Participants questioned the whereabouts of Billy Simani, also known as Crazy Nairobian, who was arrested on Friday from his house. They also questioned why protestors are being threatened for exercising their right to picket and demonstrate.

“Last night we were told Billy is at Muthaiga Police Station, but he is not here. Where is Billy?” asked Osama Otero, one of the space’s hosts.

Digital strategist Dennis Itumbi responded, saying Simani was arrested for allegedly sending threatening messages. “I have checked with the police why Crazy Nairobian, Billy, is under arrest. I understand he sent threatening messages. I will reach out to the complainant to see if they can withdraw,” he wrote on X.

Under the hashtag #FreeBilly, young Kenyans used the opportunity to dissect the Finance Bill, explaining its impact on their lives and why they plan to protest again next Tuesday.

Speaker after speaker emphasised the importance of civic education, discussed clauses in the bill concerning land, healthcare, and persons with disabilities, and hit out at politicians who joined the space.

“All of us should be registered voters to exercise our civic and democratic duty. We want to recall MPs…the only way to do so is to ensure we register as voters,” remarked X user @Zolls.

Shiko Kihika added, “The IEBC is not fully constituted yet. Maybe we need to ask what the role of the secretariat is.”

Listeners also expressed concern over taxes on commodities for persons with disabilities, questioned government decisions, and highlighted issues with public healthcare.

“Hospitals do not have medication. Kenyans cannot access NHIF despite contributing,” said Dr. Mbiti.

Car enthusiast Khalif Kairo urged youth to join the planned #TotalShutdown protests next Tuesday.

"Come to the streets on Tuesday. We will be there to show our displeasure with the government. We are not coming to loot or destroy property. We will be very peaceful." 

Some political leaders who joined the X space faced criticism from angry Kenyans for discrediting the Gen Z-led protests. National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah had dismissed the protests, saying, “The many you see protesting in Nairobi with iPhones, they call themselves Gen Z, they come to the demonstrations in Uber, afterwards they go to KFC and eat chicken... they even drink bottled water.”

Participants refuted claims that the protests are sponsored, attributing them to poor governance.

“If the protests are going to continue for the whole month, then we will protest for the whole month,” said user Mkenya Daima.

Kenyans took to the streets on Tuesday and Thursday to protest punitive taxes in the Finance Bill 2024.

More demonstrations are planned for Tuesday, June 25, after MPs voted in favor of the bill, and in solidarity with the family of 29-year-old Rex Masai, who was killed on Thursday.