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“Revolution” in Kenya: Can it Happen?

Posted: Wed Oct 30, 2019 10:07 am
by tana
So there has been “revolutions” in Sudan, Lebanon…million-man marches in Chile, Ecuador, Catalonia…therefore Kenya could be next? I see Kenyans online suggesting that these type of “revolution” is about to happen in Kenya, and I feel like laughing.

These type of opinions come from Kenyans who are out of touch with reality.

I am not an economic expert, but I postulate that, roughly, Kenyans can be placed into 5 economic groups:

1. Rich - 1% of population;
2. Upper middle class - 9% of population;
3. Middle class - 20% of population;
4. Lower middle class - 30% of population;
5. Poor - 40% of population.
Kenyans living on less than the international poverty line…has declined from 43.6% in 2005/06 to 35.6% in 2015/16. ... ed-by-2030
Kenyans arguing there is an economic crisis that can lead to a revolution, cite the following as the “possible triggers”:

1. Economy is doing very badly, government borrowing has shot up, Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) is on “free fall”…

This generally affects categories 1-3 above (cannot trigger a successful popular revolution). People in categories 4 & 5 (who start revolutions) don’t look at economics that way. They look at economics in terms of: have rents shot up (meaning cannot afford rent), am I able to buy food and other basic goods…And this has not changed for them.

2. A lot of job losses:

A lot of jobs have been lost in the area of counterfeiters, smugglers and other illegal businesses. This never starts a revolution.

“Normal” jobs have been lost in certain sectors, and jobs have been created in other sectors. As a country develops, it is normal for jobs to be lost in one sector, and recovered in other sectors e.g. If government doubles tax on imported cars, less people will buy imported cars, leading to job losses in imported (second hand) car dealerships.

However, there will be increased jobs in car assembly sector (and their local car parts suppliers), leading to more jobs for youth graduating from polytechnics.

What is the net “legal” job losses in Kenya economy in the past 12 months? Not much. Road construction jobs are still there, Toyota has started a car assembly plant in Mombasa…Teachers, civil servants have not had any job losses…

What Would Cause a “Revolution” in Kenya?

On 30 December 2002, President Mwai Kibaki was sworn in, after winning the vote on a NARC ticket. NARC had promised FREE primary education. People who are old enough to remember, in January 2003, there was chaos in primary schools across the country, as pupils flooded schools (up to that point, many rich and upper middle class Kenyans didn’t know that the fees charged in schools is what had kept millions of children out of class).

A class of 40, suddenly had 100 pupils. How were teachers supposed to cope? In early 2003, the free primary education “crisis” was the main topic of discussion in the country.

At around that time, I was in a matatu, and the “crisis” of free primary education was being discussed. Since all passengers were airing their opinion, I decided to add mine.

I suggested that, there should be a compromise - NARC is only a few weeks into office, give the government time to get organized, and the free education can start in term 2. I was almost kicked out of the matatu.

From the tone of most speakers in that matatu - and other conversations I heard about the issue in other places populated by Kenyans in economic categories 4-5 above - it was certain that, if the government reneged on the promise of providing Free Primary Education IMMEDIATELY, the people were ready to go to the streets and demonstrate.

And these were not opposition supporters - they were people who had woken up very early in the morning to vote for NARC, only a few weeks earlier.

Inciting a “Popular Revolution” in Kenya

Consider this scenario: The Ministry of Education announces that, “due to the prevailing economic circumstances”, come January 2020, every primary school pupil will be required to pay KES 1,000 in fees per year.

If some people call for a million people march in Nairobi to protest against the fees, the protest might become a 10 million man march. That would be a revolution.

The government knows this.

That is why, if a person in 1-3 economic categories identified above went to the village, and told a person in category 4-5 that they need to revolt and remove “this incompetent government from power”, he might get the following response:

“The government provides free education for my children. It provides my children with free text books…The government even provides my daughters with free sanitary pads…And you are asking me to assist you overthrow it. Are you crazy?”