Friday, 14 June 2013

Why citizens Should Protest

It started with a simple thing. The Turkish government wanted to destroy a city park to make way for a shopping mall. Just a handful of protestors felt that this was too much, and they stood in between the bulldozers and the trees at Gezi Park. It was the brutal state reaction that inflamed a simple defiance into a national uprising.

That is the nature of governments filled with uncivilized officials. People who believe themselves lords of impunity over weak and powerless people. It is the sort of government that Turkish Prime Minister Edrogan had cultivated, a regime that brutalized its people in more subtle ways for years before openly battering them while in protest. Such brutal regimes may live for some time, and only as long as the people don’t realize that they out number their oppressors.

Nearly 2 million protestors all over Turkey are actively taking to the streets each day; millions more on social media. In Istanbul, Taksim Square is fully occupied; I doubt it will belong to the government ever again. The number of dead and injured protestors keeps rising, as does the rate of brutality of the police. Alongside that, the number of people taking to the street increases exponentially. Edrogan is swamped, under siege and defeated and yet he does not know it. From pathetic laments about the horrors of social media to his most pitiful call to the mothers of the protestors, Edrogan is weak and failing. “Mothers, tell your children to stay home and not to protest!” The mothers’ response was to form a human chain between the protestors and the police. “Edrogan the Dragon’s” regime is dying; it is being slaughtered by each shout and each cheer.

This is the clear lesson to be gained from Turkey, and it is one the Kenya government seemed to have learned well. If you brutalize protestors, they only increase in number. If you try and crush a protest, you WILL create an uprising.

I want to thank the Kenya police for not using tear gas on the protestors of “Occupy Parliament Reloaded.” In fact, let the truth be told, the Police were not just restrained on Tuesday 11th June, they were almost bored.

As we danced, threw blood and abused the MPs to our hearts content on the street, the police barely blinked at us. We were allowed to vent our fury until it dissipated to tiredness, and slowly, we left the protest stage worn out and happy, yes literally happy with our police. “Polisi wetu wazuri, Wabunge ndio wabaya.”

A photo captured it all. A young lady with a red colored afro gives a bright flower to a laughing police man. Just like that, in a few hours, a protest that should have been explosive, exhibited to Kenyans and the rest of the world how democracy works when citizens’ rights are respected.
All the protest wanted, was the MPs to quit their demands for similar pay as the previous parliament, and to respect the decisions of the Salaries and Remunerations Commission. We wanted them to return to the negotiating table and to acknowledge that they certainly do not decide their own pay nor can they disband the SRC. 

The result of a closed door negotiation meant that the MPs left with an agreement to a 40% cut on their original demand. The perennial pessimist would say we gained nothing from this, seeing as the SRC had pegged their salaries at much less. Only the morbidly short sighted would of course make such a claim, forgetting that the MPs were going to take home much more than that, and on top of that they were going to disband a constitutional body. Shortsighted because you do not see how much more you would have lost nor do you understand what was at stake!

There is no protest that has ever achieved more than a STOP to a demand or action. To pretend that “Occupy Parliament” movement should have resulted in the SRC automatically calculating the MPs salary to whatever miserable figure you think Mpigs deserve, is not only irrational it is unrealistic in entirety. 

The purpose of protest is to express oneself, to vent, to demonstrate dissatisfaction, to exert pressure through civil action and to make vocal and raise awareness on pertinent issues. To this end, protest should always be a part of a democratic society. The achievements of any singular protest movement cannot thus be quantified within the confines of negotiation. It is an achievement to attain the negotiation power in the first place.

It may surprise many, but this particular protest was a win for Kenyans. Of course it will surprise those who don’t understand that our constitution was at stake, that we had no negotiation power and that the SRC was going to be disbanded because the entire National Assembly had ganged up against the SRC, against the government and against the people’s will and directives and even ganged up in defiance of what the president was requesting them to do. It would only be a surprising win, to those who spent every step of the way being negative, pessimistic, those who willingly gave up and were contemptuous of our efforts – It will not be a win to MALCONTENTS.

But it is a victorious and joyous win for those who sacrificed their time and resources, and believed in themselves and their power as citizens, to force Parliament back to civility, to bring down expenditure, to curb the powers of unwilling and disobedient civil servants and instill the values of democracy to a nation of ethnic bigots who finally woke up to unite against a bunch of rogues. We may yet have hope for Kenya, if we can, through protest, awaken the giant that is in each of us.
My, oh my, one day, the people may even realize that we outnumber our oppressors. That will be a glorious day. That will be the day we slay our own “Edrogan the Dragon”.

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