Haki Yetu (Our Rights): The Year Of The Strike.

This year or at least the last six months has been a seemingly endless period of strike after strike. In what has become almost akin to a tradition of demanding better (in most cases) from the government by taking to the streets, marching in unison with one goal and loud battle cries of ‘Haki Yetu’ or while singing the now famed song ‘Bado Mapambano’ that was first used by Otieno Kajwang to bolster support for the NARC party in 2005.

These chants were to be heard at least half a dozen times in three strikes within the last 6 months with another threatening to follow suite this Christmas, by the Matatu Welfare Association alongside the Kenya Long Distance Drivers Association with the backing of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) in one week for a 10 day period beginning on the 19th –the 27th of this month if the government refuses to reduce the countries elevated fuel prices by 30%, calls to hike their fares by the Matatu Owners Association have been rejected by the Welfare Association.

Among those to down their tools earlier this year were the public school teachers who took to the streets to demand better pay after discovering that the $35 million set aside for them was instead poured into the war efforts against Somalia’s Al Shabab who invaded the coast of Lamu kidnapping a couple of British tourists and a woman of French decent whom they would later kill.
The teachers also demanded the employment of a further 28,000 teachers to help ease congestion in classrooms. This mass action was then called off four days later when the government promised to 23,000 teachers… they are still waiting on that promise.

Things hardly settled down when the government had to combat the more than 7,000 lecturers that agitated for a pay rise of their own of a maximum of 400,000ksh per month for professors from a seemingly paltry 156,000. The strike threw into chaos students preparing to sit their final examinations and graduation plans were abandoned when public institutions across the country were shut down and students sent home to sit it out. The students did not have to sit idle for too long as the University Academic Staff Union (who called for the strike) called it off to allow for talks with the government that were scheduled to last two weeks but seem to still be in progress…

The doctors are the most recent to have taken to the tarmacked streets of Nairobi to protest that began earlier this month on the 7th and anxiety ridden days that followed ordinary Kenyans went without care only those with serious and life threatening diseases received care. The care givers took to marching in the hopes of attaining not only better pay for themselves (a 300% increase) but a larger stock of drugs for the patients they treat, better equipment for their hospitals and a national plan to improve the countries healthcare.

Kenyan workers have mastered the skill of protesting to squeeze out of the government that which they want in most cases for themselves but in some like that of the doctors and the Matatu Welfare Association for the general good of the people.

Power to the people as they patiently await the changes they so desperately want… with a warning that if their demands are not met they will move once again to the pot holed streets with placards in hand chanting in loud unison… ‘Haki Yetu!


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