ARUNGA: Kenyans must rise up, demand justice and end to State exploitation - Daily Nation

Kenyans must rise up, demand justice and end to State exploitation

Monday August 27 2018

By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
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When I saw that fuel prices were about to rise again, my first reaction was to immediately think about how I was never going to drive my car again.

A slightly privileged outlook? Of course, but even from this point of middle class privilege, some economic decisions bite too hard even for me.

And yet the more I thought about it the less I felt that this would be feasible.

My job as a freelancer does not allow me to stay in one place. I need to interview people, talk to people, attend events, that sort of thing.

RIOTS IN HAITI OVER FUEL PRICES

I thought wistfully about other countries where the middle class populace – and indeed, the larger demographic, is actually concerned about things like fuel prices; where protests will happen if such prices are deemed unfair; and where the government cannot run roughshod over the needs of its citizens.

And I felt a little guilty for my easy way out option, because that's exactly what the middle class in Kenya have been opting to do in a bid to survive.

Ironically, history repeats itself. Something like this happened in Haiti in February this year. It's barely even history again.

The government chose to increase fuel prices and the objections of the people were less than sanitary.

IMF, STATE OF ECONOMY

There were riots, the airport at Port-au-Prince was basically shutdown.

The unrest began when the government announced that gasoline prices would rise by 38 percent, diesel by 47 percent and kerosene by 51 percent.

"The poor people want to be able to eat," one masked protester told Reuters news agency, as fire consumed a vehicle behind him.

"I want to tell (President) Jovenel (Moïse) that Haiti is not for him and his family. Haiti is for every Haitian. He needs to leave the country and leave the country to us so we can live."

The government's decision to raise prices was part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with the intent to improve the economy and get more financial assistance from the global agency.

But the scheme was scrapped after the deadly protests that left at least two people dead.

TIME FOR ACTION

How eerily familiar does this script sound? You can basically replace the key player, like the president, with our country's markers and president. It's the same down to the IMF.

It makes you wonder what exactly the Kenyan public needs to get to a point where we would say enough is enough.

I know there was supposed to be a hopefully calm protest today by the Kenya Motorists Association, which I looked forward to participating in.

I would like to look at solutions like this, organised by a national body, using the power of the people to prevent things from getting too dire – something everyone can participate in, hopefully without too much fear – because nothing kills activism like fear, and your government knows that well.

Perhaps Kenya should choose not to buy fuel, except for matatus, for one day of the week, as a boycott and protest to this loan that we had no part in asking for and wanted to part in paying back?

I wish we could see some type of sustained effort, beyond the petitions and the protests that inevitably lead to tear gas.

IN SOLIDARITY WITH BOBI WINE
You know which other government understands and speaks the language of fear fluently?

No, I'm not talking about Rwanda; I'm talking about Uganda, and the torture of Bobi Wine, aka Honourable Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentam, whose failing health and its reports worry me more each day.

There were protests in Uganda (and there should be a protest today as well, at the Ugandan Embassy in Nairobi), and, of course, the police showed up and brutalized the citizens.

And this just makes it look like the government is hiding something – it always has been.

But the solidarity that I have seen online tells me something about the winds of change blowing over our region.

I think in the past Uganda President Yoweri Museveni would have gotten away with this quietly, but he picked the wrong person this time – a popular musician with a strong following, both musically and politically.

END OF DICTATORSHIP

I think this is the cusp of something great in Uganda – not only because so many people are protesting, whether online or offline, whether within the country or outside, but also because this will set the tone for his fellow dictators in Africa in terms of what happens in the next few years.

Do those who eat dinner together dictate together? It remains to be seen.

I'm proud of my countrymen for speaking out against atrocity after repeated atrocity, even though it feels like nothing is happening.

But voices do not influence instantly, and pressure is felt even from one petition signing, one online conversation, one changed mind.

It's important that we maintain this pressure on the leaders, because, in the words of Bobi Wine, "People Power is Stronger than the people in power".

Twitter: @AbigailArunga