Kenyan president offers olive branch to young protesters, but concerns remain


The news

NAIROBI — President of Kenya Willem Ruto On Friday 5th July, several government spending cuts were announced and an X-space audio format was used to address anti-government protesters, extending an olive branch to Kenya’s Gen Z and millennials who are leading the protest movement in the country.

Ruto held a press conference hours before the X-room, announcing the abolition of budgets for the offices of the first lady and second lady, and the planned dissolution of 47 state agencies. He also suspended non-essential travel for government workers and the purchase of new vehicles. The president had earlier supported the suspension of planned salary increases for lawmakers and cabinet members.

The afternoon X-room at one point recorded over 140,000 live listeners, with Kenyans demanding answers from Ruto over the killing of at least 39 protesters by police, government corruption and waste, questionable political appointments and his failure to deliver on many of his campaign promises. He was repeatedly called a “liar”.

“When I listen to the feedback on X today, I think I need to listen more, I need more empathy and my government needs more empathy and I heard you say loudly: more action,” Ruto recognized shortly after space.” This is a very rich and thriving feedback. It was a great moment for Kenyans to openly participate.”

Knowing more

The choice of X, formerly Twitter, was deliberate, as protesters use the app and TikTok to mobilise, discuss issues and coordinate protests. However, a large section of protesters in Kenya continue to demand Ruto’s resignation, despite his concessions so far, including the withdrawal of the Finance Bill 2024, which contained several tax hike proposals.

And while the X-space platform may have brought him considerable attention from local and international press, many protesters were still unhappy with it and the participation of some protesters as hosts. They argued that it gave Ruto a chance to curry favor with the public and co-opt members of the protest movement. Kevin Monari aka Osama Otero, an influencer and protester who hosted Ruto on his space, has faced heavy recoil from Kenyans who reacted to the move online. Some called it a betrayal.

“He has made promises before and failed to deliver, what is different now? He must step down,” said Ignatius Wafula, a protester in Nairobi.

Room for disagreement

Some observers and supporters of the president have argued that Ruto scored crucial political points by engaging in the space and implementing austerity measures, as it portrays him as a listening president. It also gives him the support, they say, to push through broader reforms, including expected changes to his cabinet.

“It gives him a platform to push through big, bold changes that would otherwise have been difficult to implement without political repercussions from his allies,” economist Anderson Njuki told Semafor Africa.


  • Kenyan protesters use AI in their fight against the government. The Kenyan government has expressed concerns about the risks associated with the use of AI by the anti-government protest movement.

  • Kenyan celebrities drop Safaricom over alleged protest censorshipSeveral Kenyan celebrities say they have ended their partnership with the country’s largest telecom company over claims the company disrupted internet access during protests.

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