Kenya’s Anti-Government Activists Reassess Strategy Amidst Violence in Protests


NAIROBI, July 3 (Reuters) – Activists leading Kenya’s anti-government protests are reevaluating their approach following outbreaks of violence and looting during demonstrations on Tuesday, fearing these incidents could undermine their movement’s goals of calling for President William Ruto’s resignation.

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According to the activists, the violence was instigated by “goons” allegedly hired by politicians to discredit legitimate protesters or to advance their own agendas. Some activists have called for a pause in demonstrations planned for Thursday, urging a reevaluation of tactics.

“It appears the state’s strategy to counter our movement involves using hired goons to incite violence, vandalize property, loot, and tarnish our cause,” said Ojango Omondi, an activist based in Nairobi, in an interview with Reuters. “We need to regroup and strategize on how to prevent such disruptions and stay focused on our objectives.”

Kenya’s government spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment. However, Interior Minister Kithure Kindike attributed the violence to “criminal gangs” and cautioned against politicizing criminal activities in a statement on Tuesday.

Initial protests last month, initially against proposed tax hikes, were largely peaceful, although police responded with tear gas and water cannons. The demonstrations have united Kenyans across ethnic lines, rallying around common economic grievances, in contrast to previous movements driven by ethnic politics.

Recent protests turned violent when demonstrators breached parliament briefly last week, prompting police to open fire, resulting in casualties. Despite Ruto’s subsequent withdrawal of the tax increases, protesters continued with demands ranging from anti-corruption measures to the president’s resignation.

Tuesday’s protests were marred by clashes between stone-throwing youths and police in Nairobi and other towns, alongside incidents of looting that prompted business owners to defend their properties with makeshift weapons.

Actress Foi Wambui, who participated in downtown Nairobi, expressed dismay over the chaos, stating, “Peaceful protesters are being deterred, and we are prevented from exercising our civic duties.”

While Ruto and government officials have distinguished between peaceful demonstrators and criminal elements, allies of the government have used the violence to undermine the protest movement, referred to as the Gen Z protests due to its predominantly youthful participants.

Dennis Itumbi, a political consultant close to Ruto, posted a video purportedly showing street violence, insinuating it was linked to the protests. Meanwhile, Gerald Bitok, the presidency’s communications director, claimed that young people were turning against the protests, denouncing them as synonymous with terror.

During a public forum, supporters of the protest movement debated their next steps, with some acknowledging responsibility for continuing protests after the tax hike withdrawal. Others blamed paid instigators for the violence but agreed on the need to reconsider plans for future demonstrations.

“We risk more casualties and jeopardizing our objectives,” remarked one participant. “Let’s take a step back and strategize.”

The incidents underscore the challenges faced by Kenya’s protest movement in navigating a path forward amidst escalating tensions and external pressures.

By Naija247news
By Naija247news
Naija247news is an investigative news platform that tracks news on Nigerian Economy, Business, Politics, Financial and Africa and Global Economy.

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