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By Seffu Kamau


At the core of the 7/7 protest lies a profound and enduring cost of living crisis that burdens everyday Kenyans. Startling statistics reveal harsh realities: a significant portion of the Kenyan population grapples with food insecurity, with approximately 14 million people experiencing hunger and malnutrition. High food prices, coupled with inadequate access to nutritious meals, have created a dire situation for countless families across the country, resulting in widespread job loss and more. This crisis intersects with rising unemployment, exacerbating the financial strain and affecting the overall quality of life. Moreover, this crisis exacerbates the dire situation in Kenya due to inadequate healthcare and education, perpetuating vicious cycles of poverty.


Children, in particular, bear the brunt of this crisis, with malnutrition rates soaring, negatively impacting their long-term health and development. The economic fallout stemming from the cost of living crisis has led to a surge in job losses and unemployment. Many businesses have been forced to downsize or shut down entirely, leaving workers without stable incomes to support themselves and their families. Consequently, this has significantly widened the socioeconomic gap in Kenyan society.


On July 7, 1990, Kenyans took to the streets, demanding an expansion of the democratic space. The people were eager to exercise their freedom of speech and assembly, rights that were curtailed under Moi's dictatorship. The demonstrations eventually led to the repeal of Section 2A of the Constitution in 1991, ushering in multipartism.


This year's Saba Saba demonstrations represent a continuation of the struggle initiated by Kenyans. It serves as a stark reminder that plural politics and expanded public voice have not resolved the issues that prevent Kenyans from living with dignity. On the 33rd anniversary of the demonstration, the primary demand was a reduction in the high cost of living.


The 7/7 (Saba Saba 2023 March for Our Lives) protests across different parts of Kenya, including Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa, Kisii, Migori, and Turkana, resonated with frustration and a call for change in the face of the soaring cost of living. These protests shone a light on the struggles ordinary Kenyans face to put food on the table and exposed the state of human rights in the country. The demonstrations unveiled the underlying neo-colonial legacy that still affects society.


The protests aimed to address these pressing issues and demanded economic reforms to reduce wealth disparities, minimize inequality, and prioritize the well-being of citizens. Rising inflation and limited access to essential services further compound the challenges faced by ordinary Kenyans, making it increasingly difficult for them to break free from the vicious cycle of poverty and deprivation. Additionally, the issue of food sovereignty looms large over Kenya despite its significant agricultural potential, as it struggles to ensure self-sufficiency and food security for its people.


The mistreatment of peaceful protesters during the 7/7 demonstration reveals a deep-seated issue within the Kenya Police Service—a lingering influence of colonial-era tactics and attitudes. The excessive use of force, including tear gas, arbitrary arrests, and physical violence against protesters, reflects a failure to decolonize and reform the police force. The police continue to operate with a mindset reminiscent of the oppressive colonial regime. Addressing this issue is critical to safeguard human rights and establish a just and equitable society. Achieving this shift necessitates moving away from authoritarian and oppressive tactics towards community-oriented policing that values dialogue, empathy, and respect for human rights. An effective police service that genuinely serves the people requires active participation and collaboration among all stakeholders, including the government, civil society, and the community. Only through collective efforts can we challenge the remnants of colonial-era policing and build a police force that upholds the principles of justice, fairness, and respect for human rights.


The detention of the 36 protesters during the 7/7 demonstration has brought to the forefront the unfinished revolution of the Mau Mau struggle. The 1963 flag independence from colonial rule brought a toxic, almost delusional sense of freedom. The truth is that the country merely transitioned into a neo-colonial state, wherein power dynamics shifted from white colonial masters to black colonial masters. This neo-colonial legacy continues to perpetuate systemic injustices, such as economic exploitation, political marginalization, and cultural erasure.


Economic exploitation is evident in the continuation of extractive practices that prioritize the interests of external actors over the well-being of local communities. The vast wage gap, with CEOs earning, for instance, 10,000,000 while the lowest-paid worker earns only 10,000 a month, reflects a deeply unequal distribution of wealth and resources. These stark disparities not only exacerbate social and economic inequalities but also perpetuate a cycle of poverty and marginalization for those at the bottom of the income scale. This profit-driven approach prioritizes the interests of a few at the expense of the well-being and dignity of the majority poor.


It is a clear reflection of the neo-colonial economic model that prioritizes the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a privileged few while neglecting the rights and needs of the workforce. Moreover, natural resources are often exploited for the benefit of foreign corporations, exacerbating wealth disparities and hindering sustainable development. As the ruling minority elite in government offices suppresses dissent and fails to address the fundamental needs and aspirations of its citizens, it is crucial to challenge this profit-driven mentality and advocate for fair wages, equitable labour practices, and inclusive economic policies. This can help us work towards dismantling neo-colonial economic structures and creating an environment where the value of every individual's work is respected and rewarded.


The detainment of the 36 protesters has also shone a light on political marginalization, with power concentrated in the hands of a few. This neo-colonial power structure undermines democratic processes, hindering a true democracy. These systemic injustices highlight the urgent need to dismantle neo-colonial structures and reclaim agency over our economic, political, and cultural landscapes. Nevertheless, we continue to strive for a society that values and uplifts the voices, rights, and identities of all its citizens.


The 7/7 protest and its aftermath underscore the critical role played by social justice movements and progressive organizations, including the Communist Party of Kenya, in advocating for change and defending human rights. By organizing and mobilizing, activists, organizations, and concerned citizens rallied against the injustices faced by the majority. They put on the agenda the need for police reforms and the vast amount of institutionalized injustices being experienced by the people. Through social media platforms and collective action, they raised awareness, fostered solidarity, and exerted pressure on the authorities to be accountable for their actions. The Communist Party of Kenya has played a vital role in offering the Kenyan working class an alternative to the oppressive system. CPK offers a new way of organizing society economically, socially, and politically—one in which every member of the country can reap all the benefits that come with the land.


As we reflect on the 7/7 protest and its ramifications for Kenya's human rights landscape, it becomes evident that meaningful changes are required to address the underlying systemic issues. In examining the problems faced by ordinary Kenyans, it becomes clear that the root causes lie in the capitalist system that exacerbates inequality and perpetuates the neo-colonial legacy. Capitalism prioritizes profit over the well-being of the people, leading to a concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few. This wealth disparity widens the divide between the rich and the poor, making it increasingly difficult for the majority to access basic necessities and achieve a decent standard of living.


To address these systemic injustices, an alternative system, socialism offers the only solution. Socialism promotes the equitable distribution of resources, prioritizes the needs of the people, and challenges the exploitative nature of capitalism. By reimagining the economic structure, adopting socialist principles, and striving for collective ownership and decision-making, Kenyan society, under the Communist Party of Kenya, can work towards a more just and inclusive system that ensures the well-being of all its citizens.


As we move forward, it is imperative to foster solidarity, amplify marginalized voices, and strive for a society that upholds the principles of justice, equality, and human rights. By questioning the capitalist framework and envisioning alternative systems, such as socialism, we can pave the way for a more equitable and inclusive future for all Kenyans.


In summary:


The 7/7 protest shed light on the intertwined challenges of the high cost of living, human rights, and Kenya's neo-colonial legacy. By focusing on the tax burden, capitalism, wealth inequality, food sovereignty, and the unfinished revolution of the Mau Mau, it becomes clear that the struggle for justice is multifaceted. As social justice movements continue to raise their voices, it is crucial to challenge neo-colonial structures, as we have uncovered that the main issue is capitalism. We ought to start talks and discussions on decolonizing institutions and push for comprehensive reforms that prioritize the well-being and aspirations of all Kenyans rather than a few rich individuals. Only through concerted efforts can we move towards a society where human rights are respected, economic justice is realized, and the legacies of colonialism are truly dismantled. Viva!


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