July 14, 2023


With this week’s news round-up: the changes to how we’re perceiving the protests and the news of inequal representation in the public sector.

More by Cameron Grant

Trending: a round-up of this week’s latest news

Trending: a round-up of this week’s latest news

In a week in which the news cycle has been dominated by protests against William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza government, conversations about government conduct and the high and rising cost of living here in Kenya have naturally dominated.

If you read last week’s news round-up you, or if you’ve kept yourself even only superficially abreast of the protests, you will know that this civil unrest is being driven by dissatisfaction with the Ruto regime and by anxiety over the cost of living. This week, as protests have developed, the conversation has shifted.

(For those of you interested in a brief overview of what dominated headlines in Kenya last week, have a read of that weekly round-up article here.)

#MaandamanoNowWednesday: Maandamano continues and the conversation moves on

As protesters took to the streets, chanting ‘Ruto must go’, Kenya’s netizens found themselves embroiled in a debate over civil disobedience’s capacity for positive change.

‘Ruto must go’ say those on the streets. The presence of protesters in Kenya’s major cities, amidst the clouds of tear gas and in danger of a beating by baton-wielding cops, could perhaps be taken as evidence behind the protesters stance on civil disobedience. It is necessary, their presence suggests, when the perceived evil is evil enough.

Those who support Ruto and the Kenya Kwanza government have called the protests illegal and anarchic. They use a well-worn criticism of protest, suggesting that the protesters are motivated by the desire to partake in wanton destruction and not by the genuine will to enact political change.

The truth behind what it is that genuinely motivates a crowd is, of course, inaccessible.

There will always be malcontents drawn to the violence for its visceral excitement. However, with the recent hikes in the price of everyday essentials and as evidenced by the continued drive for protest, one could only be blind or wilfully ignorant if they were to assert that there is no genuine desire for change also present.

With businesses losing out on missed revenue, publicly-owned facilities getting damaged, and allegations – from and about both sides – that criminal gangs are being hired to excite tensions further, only time will tell whether the net gain from these protests is positive or negative.

Who holds office? A house report has found that certain tribes dominate state agency jobs

As if to throw fuel to a fire that, alongside all that is listed above, has its tribal qualities, on Monday, news broke of a House Report detailing the ethnic imbalance in state-sponsored employment.

A new report released by the National Assembly’s Committee on National Cohesion and Equal Opportunity has informed us of the ethnic make-up within Kenya’s 14 public institutions.

The report indicates that certain of Kenya’s public offices are dominated by certain tribal groups. KenGen, the Kenya Electrical Generating Company, is 31.73% comprised of Kikuyu tribe members.

The Kikuyu, who have been able to call 3 out of the 5 post-independence presidents one of their own, also make up the bulk of the workforce for the Kenya Trade Network Agency (30%), the Kenya Medical Research Institute (25.83%), the Kenya National Highways Authority (24.16%) and 2 other state-sponsored organisations.

Present president William Ruto’s tribe, the Kalenjin, comprise the bulk of workers for the National Social Security Fund (18.26%) and the Teachers Service Commission (17.17%).

Luos, who form the foundational body of opposition leader Raila Odinga’s support, dominate jobs at the Kenya National Shipping Line (31.58%) and the Kenya Maritime Authority (15.97%).

That most of the jobs in government-funded organisations are held by members of three of the most populous and politically enfranchised tribes is being taken by some as evidence of an often peddled aspersion that Kenyan politics is an exercise in corrupt nepotism.

This report was obviously commissioned with the intent of providing evidence from which actionable change can be built. That does not, however, mean that, in it’s immediate wake, some heightening of tension might not come of this report.

#Mandera: Mandera is again in the news, again for terror-related developments

Mandera County, which borders both Ethiopia and Somalia, is often mentioned with regard to terror and terror-related stories. The County’s largest town, Mandera, sits at the meeting point of the three country’s borders and it is the starting point for many journeying entrants to Kenya from its northern neighbours.

This is despite the fact that Kenya’s border points with Somalia have been closed since 2011.

(Related article which readers may find enlightening: ‘Where is Kenya’s border with Somalia?)

Unfortunately, Mandera and neighbouring Wajir Counties are often easy targets for Al-Shabaab militants. Militants reportedly use Southern Somalia as a launching point for cross-border attacks on Kenyan soil. As is evidenced by the closure of those border points, this is no new issue.

Why Mandera is in the news this week is because a small cache of weaponry was found in a bus that is reported to have departed Mandera. An AK47 and some magazines of ammunition was found on board the bus as it passed through Wajir County. The reported destination for the weapon was Garissa town, itself a frequent target for terror related crimes.

Intelligence operators are presently concerned with rumours of an imminent attack on an institute for learning in the area, as per reporting by The Nation. This is no new mode of attack for Al-Shabaab; many readers will remember the terrorist attack on Garissa University from 2015.

The discovery of this AK47 is being treated as evidence of Al-Shabaab’s stockpiling of weapons in Kenya. The Somalia/Kenya border posts were scheduled to be reopened last month; that has been delayed in the wake of recent developments.

Deaths, Demonstrations and Riots

The aftermath of Wednesday’s Raila Odinga-Azimio led demonstrations and riots dominates the media.

‘7 shot dead as Raila calls for more demos’ was the front page of The Star, and ‘Ruto allies demand Raila arrest, publish Bill to tame protests.’

Running battle, tear gas ruin demos’ is the The Star’s headline atop a double page spread of photographs featuring burning cars and tyres, which seems slightly odd given that the aim of the demonstrations was at least in part to lead to riots and confrontation.

The Daily Nation on Thursday ran eight pages of coverage of the riots cum demos (depending on your point of view).

‘Prepare for third wave of protests, Raila tells Ruto’ s one of the headlines in The Daily Nation, under which Raila Odinga is quoted as saying “This time around, there is no moving on until Ruto shows a readiness to listen to and respect the people.”

Ruto could of course respond that Odinga should respect the result of the August 2022 election.

Meanwhile, it’s the ordinary law-abiding people who will suffer, which The Daily Nation’s reports under the headline is ‘Business lose billions as shops close over protests.’

So, who’s to blame?

In The Standard on Thursday, Raila Odinga alleged that he had received intelligence of a plan by Kenya to ferry “armed goons” to disrupt the demonstrations – ‘Azimio accuses Kenya Kwanza of hiring goons to disrupt their rally.’

Alternatively, in The Standard on Friday, under the headline ‘Cachagua accuses Raila of paying criminal gangs to cause mayhem’, Kenya’s deputy president calls for Kenya Kwanza leaders to be held responsible for the chaos.


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