The Youth-led revolution that Africa has been waiting for

The Youth-led revolution that Africa has been waiting for

Kenya's Gen Z has unleashed a revolution that's rewriting the rules of engagement. Buckle up, because this revolution isn't just coming - it's already here, and it's powered by the unstoppable energy of youth. Find out how this revolution can be protected and nurtured not just in Kenya but across Africa.

In the annals of Kenya's history, there have been many moments of uprising and defiance. From the pre-independent Mau Mau uprising to the fiery streets of Nairobi in 1992, to the impassioned protests of 2007, the Kenyan spirit has always sought justice and change. Yet, even at the peak of these demonstrations, no political movement managed to orchestrate massive protests across multiple towns simultaneously. Until now.

In these final days of June, Kenya’s Generation Z has accomplished what their predecessors could only dream of: simultaneous demonstrations in multiple towns across the country. They include Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, Kisumu, Kilifi, Ngong, Kitengela, Kisii, Kakamega, Nyeri, Thika, Malindi and beyond. These demonstrations are a groundswell of rage against a government that hell-bent on raising taxes instead of raising the people’s standard of living.

This youth movement has unleashed a power that previous opposition leaders never had. Indeed, Kenya stands on the brink of a true revolution. It is imperative that this revolution be protected and nurtured, lest it fall prey to the same fate as the Arab Spring—a promising uprising that was mostly hijacked, leaving Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria under regimes that do not truly serve their people.

Lessons from the Arab Spring

But with great power comes great responsibility, and the specter of history looms large. The Arab Spring began with a fervor that promised freedom and democracy across the Middle East and North Africa. Yet, as the dust settled, many of these countries found themselves under new forms of oppression. In Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, the revolution ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, but the country continues to struggle with political instability and economic woes. Egypt saw the fall of Hosni Mubarak, only to replace him with a brief period of democracy followed by military rule under Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Syria descended further into a brutal civil war, with Bashar al-Assad clinging to power amidst widespread devastation.

These examples serve as stark reminders that revolutions are vulnerable to being co-opted by forces that do not align with the people's aspirations. Kenya’s youth and Kenyans as a whole must remain vigilant, ensuring that their movement does not become a mere stepping stone for opportunists.

Protecting the revolution

So how do we protect this nascent revolution? How do we nurture it, ensuring it doesn't wither on the vine or become poisoned fruit?

First, we must recognize that the strength of this movement lies in its decentralized nature. Unlike the revolutions of old, there is no single leader to be co-opted or silenced. This is both its greatest asset and its greatest vulnerability. To preserve this strength, we must resist the urge to anoint figureheads. Instead, let a thousand voices speak, each adding to the chorus of change.

Second, we must learn from Romania's revolution against Nicolae Ceaușescu. The fall of the dictator was swift, but the aftermath was chaotic. Many of the old guard simply rebranded themselves, clinging to power in new guises. Kenya's youth must be vigilant, scrutinizing not just the faces of power, but the structures that support them. Tear down the system, not just the figurehead.

Third, look to Sri Lanka's ousting of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The people's victory was hard-won, but the economic crisis that sparked the uprising remains. Kenya's revolution must have a vision beyond removal – it must articulate a clear path forward, addressing the root causes of discontent, not just its symptoms.

Kenya’s Path Forward

For Kenya’s revolution to succeed and endure, it must be rooted in the principles of unity, vigilance, and inclusivity. Here are key strategies to protect and nurture this burgeoning movement:

Clear Vision and Goals: What’s the end game? This question must be answered honestly, wisely and clearly. A clear vision and set of goals are crucial. The movement must articulate what it stands for, beyond opposing the Finance Bill 2024 and the current regime. This vision will guide the revolution and provide a roadmap for post-revolution governance.

Inclusivity: The movement is already inclusive and must remain. Attempts to Divide and Rule must be heartily and speedily rejected.

Guard Against Co-option: The revolution must remain in the hands of the people. External and internal forces will seek to hijack the movement for their gain. Kenyans must remain vigilant, ensuring that eventual leadership across the country emerges from within the movement, committed to its core values.

Guard against Purist Ideologues: The revolution in Kenya must remain vigilant against the allure of Purist Ideologues.  While a core vision is crucial, revolutions that reject the strengthening power of new ideas are brittle things, prone to fracturing under the pressure of infighting. Remember, even missteps offer valuable lessons. A movement that embraces thoughtful adaptation; that allows for mistakes and subsequent growth, is far more likely to achieve lasting progress.

Peaceful Protest: Violence can delegitimize the movement and provide a pretext for harsh crackdowns. The protests must remain peaceful, demonstrating moral superiority and commitment to justice.

To the youth of Kenya, I say this: Your power is real, and it is raw. But power without direction is a storm that destroys indiscriminately. Don’t just ride the revolutionary wave, start building boats that will ferry you across the ocean, to the Promised Land.

Document everything – your grievances, your actions, your successes. In the age of social media, you have tools your predecessors could only dream of. Use them to create a narrative that cannot be easily distorted or erased.

To the older generations, I implore: Do not stand in the way of this tide. Your experience is valuable, but it must not become a cage for new ideas. Offer guidance, but be prepared to follow. The world these young people inherit will be shaped by forces you may struggle to comprehend. Trust in their vision, even as you counsel them.

And to those in power, heed this warning: The winds of change are howling at your door. You can try to barricade yourselves against it, but know this – the force of a people united is not something that can be forever resisted. The examples of Romania’s Ceaușescu, Sri Lanka’s Rajapaksa and numerous others, stand as stark reminders of what awaits those who refuse to bend to the will of their people.

Kenya now stands at a crossroads. The path ahead is fraught with danger, but also brimming with possibility. This revolution, born in the hearts of its youth, has the potential to reshape the nation in ways we can scarcely imagine. It is a delicate flame, one that must be sheltered from the winds of greedy opportunism and the downpours of repression.

Protect it. Nurture it. For in its light, we may yet see the dawn of a new Kenya – one that truly belongs to its people.

The power of the people, once awakened, is an unstoppable force. This revolution is not just a moment; it is the dawn of a new era. Let us protect it with all our might.
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