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Festo Lang
Journalist Larry Madowo interviews protestors on the streets of Kenya


Kenya’s timeless moment of truth

The people’s voice, when united, persistent and determined, is always a powerful force for change.




WHEN people are fed up with corrupt and incompetent leaders, who visit upon them leadership, governance and policy failures which wreck their lives to rubble with devastating consequences, they rise up in protest, demanding change, fresh ideas and accountability.

This usually happens when basic needs are neglected and social service delivery fails.

People may revolt when their fundamental needs like food, water, shelter, transport and security are thwarted or denied.

Long-standing injustices, marginalisation and unequal distribution of resources can fuel widespread discontent.

Besides, corruption and abuse of power prevail stoke discontent, unrest and demonstrations.

Leaders’ brazen corruption, nepotism, cronyism, tribalism and abuse of authority can erode trust and spark outrage.

Suppression of freedom and human rights, particularly civil and political liberties, censorship and oppression often galvanise public resistance and protests.

There are severe economic conditions, such as unemployment and poverty, that lead to frustration and and sometimes uprisings.

Systematic authoritarian political repression also usually provokes public disaffection and strife.

In addition, social and cultural grievances, for instance marginalisation, cultural erasure, and social injustices, usually create a groundswell of agitation and explosion of anger.

Zimbabwe has been nursing such centrifugal forces for a long time.

Throughout history these sorts of issues and factors have led to revolutions, protests, and social movements that have transformed societies and toppled leaders.

The people’s voice, when united, persistent and determined, is always a powerful force for change.

Kenya is just but one example of what can happen when long-suffering people’s patience, tolerance and resilience are overtaxed and overstretched by their leaders.

Demand for change in Africa is growing, driven by various factors such as the youth bulge: Africa’s large youth population seeks opportunities, jobs, and better governance.

Africa has the world’s largest youth population. By 2030, 75% of the African population will be under the age of 35.

The number of young Africans aged 15-24 is projected to reach 500 million in 2080.

While population dynamics vary across the continent, most sub-Saharan countries have a median age below 19.

Niger is the youngest country in the world with a median age of 14.5, while South Africa, Seychelles, Tunisia and Algeria have median ages above 27.

These demographics are a potential force for growth.

However, the potential of Africa’s demographic dividend has been overshadowed by concerns among governments and international donors about the relationship between large youth populations, unemployment rates and political instability.

Many countries with large youth populations and high rates of youth unemployment and under-employment remain peaceful.

But the dominant policy narrative is that unemployed youth pose a threat to stability.

Further, the role of youth in popular protest — such as in Sudan in 2019 and Kenya a few daya ago, as well as Zimbabwe occasionally — has created high expectations about their role in countering autocratic governments and contributing to democracy.

Political scientists and sociologists like studying and understanding the interaction between youth and autocratic regimes — especially as elected autocracies in Africa.

Electoral autocracy regimes thrive on authoritarian strategies: manipulation of elections and repression of the opposition, independent media and civil society.

These regimes are aware of their large youth populations and the role of young people.

In Uganda, there is Bobi Wine, Julius Malema and Mmusi Maimane in South Africa (which is an electoral democracy), Diane Rwigara in Rwanda, Duma Boko in Botswana, Tundu Lissu in Tanzania and Daniel Chapo in Mozambique from the ruling party.

Chapo (47) was recently in Zimbabwe to meet President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Disparities in wealth and access to resources fuel demands for economic reform, particularly in societies like South Africa where inequality is scandalous.

Access to information and connectivity fuels demands for modernisation and innovation, leading to change. T he emergence of social justice movements has been key.

These demands are driving protests, movements, and calls for reform across Africa, pushing leaders to address the continent’s challenges and create opportunities for the youth and the population at large.

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