By Mercy Mwaniki

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{image by Getty Images}


Kenya is leading the propagation of Eastern Africa’s digital landscape, according to the “2023 Eastern Africa Youth Digital Readiness Index”, and it shows.

For years now, protests have always been about physically showing up in large numbers due to politics and rallies held by opposing parties; at least for the ones that have happened in the past 22 years. But we cannot forget about movements like “The Young Kavirondo Association that was started by students under the leadership of Jonathan Okwiri. They had several demands, including but not limited to abolition of the Kipande system and reduction of hut tax. With the recent protests, Gen Z’s have showed up and utilized social media to advocate for their rights and express their views.

The past three weeks have had not only large numbers of young people showing up physically in Nairobi, but also in different parts of the country. They have been voicing their opinions loud enough that the world has had its eyes on Kenya, waiting to see the next step. They have gone ahead to clearly draw the line between what has been in the past and what will be in future if certain changes are made.

They have gone ahead and even made plans for “seven days of justice for the innocent lives lost during peaceful protest. This has reminded people of the Saba Saba movement that took place on 7th July 1990. Demanding for free elections, some of the leaders like Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia were arrested before the protest day while others were beaten and detained by the police. History has repeated itself as there have been arrests and abductions of people who have been very vocal during the protests. We have also seen many a person hurt in the hands of the police.

Before, the youths were called social media addicts, among other terms, to describe their obsession namely, always using their smart phones. This time they have proved that social media can also be used as a weapon. Tribe-less, party-less and fearless they have united with a common objective.

All communication- on meeting points, where to get help if injured or arrested, places to avoid and even how to help others- has been done via various social media platforms. The young people have expressed themselves so eloquently, that their actions have become a motivating factor to everyone watching. So much has happened, lives have been lost and many injured, but we’ve also seen the “M -CHANGA initiative” where Kenyans country-wide have raised millions to help those who got hurt in one way or another during the protest.

So, it’s no longer a surprise to see how much can be achieved via social media accounts. Just a tap and information is shared widely. We saw businesses close, but others become a safe haven for those seeking refuge. We saw people using their platforms to teach how to do first aid if one is shot or severely injured by the tear gas. We saw young people making a change and fighting for it. A generation that went ahead to pass their message even through vernacular languages.

We have also seen how people have been encouraged to take a break from all the negative news for the sake of their mental health and also to breathe. So many disturbing and heart-breaking videos and images have been circulating. Different organisations have used social media to reach out to those who have been severely impacted by the current state of the country and do not know how to go about it. So, as they use it for their rights, they have also used it to advocate for mental health stability.

As the young people fight for their future, we are again reminded of adapting to changes and using it for a good cause. The young people have settled on the future they want and will not give up. The Gen Z ‘s have fully utilized their social media platforms for a better tomorrow. They have clearly communicated and hopefully they will be heard, the path has been set, and the journey has begun.




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