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Tech News & Podcast | Africa

Kenya’s Gen Z at Forefront of Tech-Driven Protest Against Finance Bill 2024, Sparking Digital Revolution

Kenya saw a dramatic change in the political environment in June 2024 as young people went from being seen as politically indifferent spectators to tech-savvy activists. The contentious Finance Bill 2024 served as the impetus for the movement, which swiftly spread across the country and redefined protest tactics in Kenya while criticizing the policies of the government.

Young Kenyans first started the protest on TikTok, where they vented their dissatisfaction at the proposed tax laws. What began as straightforward video postings quickly took off on other social media sites, sparking an online unrest that quickly spread. Using a variety of creative strategies, such as AI-generated protest songs, personalized GPT models that elucidated the details of the law, and popular hashtags like #OccupyParliament and #RejectFinanceBill2024, Gen Z showed off their technological acumen.

An important turning point occurred when activists crowdsourced a list of MPs’ phone numbers and began bombarding lawmakers with calls. According to reports, one MP received almost 30,000 texts from constituents, demonstrating the structure and scope of the campaign.
An extraordinary assembly took place in Nairobi’s Central Business District as online activism gave way to street demonstrations. These protestors, in contrast to more conventional ones, were equipped with cellphones, the ability to broadcast live, and a strong grasp of the influence that social media can have. Authorities found it difficult to pinpoint specific leaders due to the movement’s dispersed structure.

However, there was strong opposition to the nonviolent protests. To label demonstrators for potential arrest, police utilized water cannons and tear gas, some of which were impregnated with colorful dye. The protesters remained unwavering in the face of these strategies; some even carried on their activity via social media posts while they were being held by the police.

Kenya’s Digital Protest: Uniting in Tragedy, Mobilizing for Change

After the administration initially withdrew a number of contentious tax plans, demonstrators requested that the Finance Bill be rejected in its entirety. Sadly, things became worse and two people died as a result. The movement’s price was symbolized by Rex Kanyike Masai, 29, and Evans Kiratu, 21, who sparked indignation and new hashtags like #RIPRex and #JusticeForRex.

Kenyan unity was evident in the face of hardship. Protesters were provided with refuge by neighborhood establishments and places of worship, including the Jamia Mosque. Drs. Austin Omondi and Salim Ishmael headed a team of medical specialists who donated their time to treat injured protesters.
Social media had two roles: it was a means of mobilizing support and a means of holding individuals who were thought to be unsupportive responsible. Another thing that disseminated was misinformation, underscoring the difficulties of quick information spread in the internet age.

By Sunday morning, more than 2.2 million Kenyan shillings had been raised by the online community in support of the victims’ relatives. The demand for the release of demonstrators in custody grew, and some progress was noted.

Kenya’s political participation has significantly changed as a result of this tech-driven protest. It proves that young Kenyans can successfully organize around problems that have an impact on their everyday lives by combining conventional protest techniques with digital resources. The movement has made it very evident to leaders, both present and future, how powerful young people who are politically active and connected online can be.

The events of June 2024 will probably be seen as a watershed in Kenya’s political activism going forward. A new paradigm of civic involvement has emerged from the combination of digital savvy and street protest; this model has the potential to influence political debate and action in Kenya and abroad.

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