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Riot police disperse university students during the Saba Saba in Nairobi on July 1997. (File, Standard]

The second liberation struggle, whose turning point was July 7, 1990, was not an easy one. Until then, Kenya was a one party State with very little space for divergent political views. 

A group of politicians fondly referred to as the ‘Young Turks’ led Kenyans in a big demonstration in the streets of Nairobi. The government took note, repealed Section 2 (a) of the Constitution and allowed multi-party politics. In 1992, Kenyans participated in the first multi-party elections.  

In part, the agitation for democracy was caused by the government’s failure to respect the Constitution, and police brutality and extra-judicial killings were common. Thirty years later, despite an expanded democratic space, leaders still show open disdain for the Constitution, especially Chapter 6 on integrity. Free expression is a constitutional guarantee, but freedom of expression is under threat. Police brutality remains an open wound. In recent days, police hostility towards citizens and extra-judicial killings have increased. The curfew and health guidelines aimed at containing Covid-19 pandemic seem to have given police officers the right to kill citizens over infractions as minor as not wearing a mask.

Our politics today are a far cry from the constructive politics of those days when leaders articulated issues dear to the mwananchi. A mean streak seems to have entered our leaders who spend most of their time spreading hate and causing division by scoring off each other. As we commemorate this day, leaders and the government should reflect on the ideals espoused by those who engineered the second liberation struggle and unite the country. A united country is the only surety to greater success. 

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