Maandamano? Yes! But let’s not forget to work to rebuild our economy

By Derrick Ouko

Don’t we know that there is no problem without a solution? For the past seven weeks or so, protests in Nairobi and parts of Azimio strongholds have become accustomed to us, and what we seem to forget that demonstrations can never address the challenges facing the common “mwananchi.”

It’s time the opposition deployed other tactical mechanisms to get their voices heard, like staying patient for bipartisan talk outcomes instead of always threatening to call it off anytime they wish or need to pressurize the government as they did when they wanted Adan Keynan replaced in the Kenya Kwanza team.  Democracy comes with freedom of choice, liberty and equality; Adan’s appointment was too flimsy a reason to re-demonstrate.

Protests, demonstrations and picketing are effective tools in democracy, but for them to be effective, the public must use them wisely. Protests, in my opinion, are angry expressions. They do not represent the desirable solutions. I doubt Azimio’s threats to get back to the streets can lead to meaningful economic redistribution or even the reduction of the cost of living. Azimio leader Raila Odinga should consider other non-violent ways of civil disobedience to pass his message to the government of the day. Violence only serves to soil his good name and legacy of championing the second and third liberations of our country.

The last demonstrations are about the spiraling cost of living in Kenya. However, we shouldn’t forget that President William Ruto came to power with the economy in shreds. As the elections were approaching, the President promised to reduce the cost of living immediately after taking power. The government cut vital subsidies on fuel and other necessary commodities, worsening the inflation in the country. Fuel use, which drives Kenya’s thriving service sector and the business community, has skyrocketed. Most Kenyans now must contend with rising costs of fuel, power, and other necessities, including vegetables, milk, water, and maize flour. People have grown impatient under his administration just after eight months, and the opposition is taking advantage of this.

The private sector has taken an unnecessary hit from the violent street protests that threaten employment and wealth distribution in an already bleeding economy. Our political parties must rise above the layer of truism and condemn violence instead of throwing stones and burning down properties- that Kenya should have outgrown by now. They should be patriotic enough to carry peace banners and flyers.

The protests have affected my backyard in folds. I come from Kasipul constituency in Homa bay county. Recently while visiting home, I realized that our neighboring counties that did not actively participate in the “maandamano” are already eating into the industrial potential of Nyanza counties. My brothers and sisters from the lake will agree with me that little economic progress was born out of The Handshake. The mines at Masara Town, Sonny Sugar in Awendo, Ayoro Coffee in Oyugis, the Kabondo sweet potatoes, and the fish markets are some underutilized productive resources. The community should find a rescue instead of running on the streets.

The seeming uncertainty, tension, and unease shows Kenya’s vulnerability: a middle class that is belligerently ignorant and striving for “success” that is defined by submission to our demigods (politicians) and the occident’s gaze rather than initiative, creativity or industry.

Kenya has history of a bloody post-election violence, and due to the opposition’s steadfast commitment to conducting protests, runs the risk of experiencing political unrest never seen before- what with the burning of a mosque in Kibra a few weeks ago to the burning of a lorry and bus in Nairobi on Tuesday and even the mass destruction of properties.

The political establishment is already abusing maandamano politics. As much as we think the protest will reduce the cost of living, economic redistribution, and even sort our political interests, we should channel our energy to that which can build our economy.

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