How Gen Z successfully utilised X Spaces to rouse a storm of protest.

  • 28 Jun 2024
  • 5 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Anne Ndungu

Can the events in Kenya this week be termed a revolution? When using the term ‘revolution’ one has to be careful to apply it properly as it generally does not apply to all uprisings. Kenya’s protest was a variation on the original theme. It was organic and spontaneous and much like the Iranian revolution, many people closed shop to go and protest. We know this because many walked long distances from the city’s outskirts to enter the central business district. A huge tide of people walked on Thika Road and another steady flow streamed in from Waiyaki Way. These two are among the main highways leading to and from the city.

The organisation of these protests did not involve any political figure. True, at the very beginning Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) may have been involved in calling for the rejection of the finance bill thereby stoking the embers of protest at the beginning but the movement took on a life of its own surpassing not even they could have predicted the spectacularly successful outcome of this particular protest.

They uncovered the smouldering resentment that ignited the public’s outrage against the elites; a deep-seated anger towards government officials flaunting their opulent lifestyles and extravagant tastes, parading in designer clothes and accessories, the distaste for the evident corruption, misuse of public funds and resources and the lack of any significant development. All this was bolstered by a growing debt burden due to heavy external borrowing from sources such as the IMF and World Bank. Cries to cut down on borrowing and unnecessary expenditure – Kenyans went as far as hijacking International Monetary Fund(IMF) live sessions online to ask the IMF not to lend Kenya money – went unheeded

As a rule, Kenyans are a tolerant bunch and using Hofstede’s cultural dimensions prefer indirect communication due to the collectivistic nature of Kenyan societies. They developed a strong aversion to political violence, especially after the post-election violence of 2008. Since then, they have tended to adhere to the law, and peacefully accept the outcome of elections to minimise the loss of life, avoiding bloodshed over political disagreements after disputed elections. It was this love for peace and subdued attitude that masked the simmering anger beneath, which politicians failed to recognise and address.

In addition, Kenyans love the X platform and are known to swarm and attack people online in what has been likened to a swarm of bees. So much so that David Ndii, an economist who is also an advisor to the president and who has been vocal on the platform, insulted them with strong profanity last week on Thursday about their use of digital tools. The insult did not go down well  

X Spaces emerged as a powerful platform of expression for these strong emotions that could no longer be contained. On Saturday, June 22, 2024, X User @osama_otero started the space titled: Good Morning Kenya: Where is crazy Nairobian? This was after another user Billy Simani going by @CrazyNairobian on the platform went missing in a series of abductions of X users who have large followings and were perceived to be the masterminds behind the online revolution. The X space lasted for close to seven hours from 6 am and collectively had 1.2 million users sign in. People took turns to speak about their grievances and United Democratic Alliance (UDA) politicians like Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen, Senate majority leader Aaron Cheruiyot and UDA-affiliated bloggers like Dennis Itumbi who joined the space were called out for being out of touch with the daily reality of Kenyans. President William Ruto also momentarily joined the space though later users called out Dennis Itumbi for forgetting to switch accounts and instead joining using the president’s account. 



Well-known X user Eric Amunga who goes by @amerix and is known for posting on health and masculinity issues for example called out Aaron Cheruiyot and Oscar Sudi who went to a church fundraising and gave out a donation of Kshs. 20 million. He said that amount of money would pay 40 Kenyans for one year. 


President Ruto joins the Space



Popular influencer Andrew Kibe @kibeandy who hosts an X space on Mondays known as Motivational Mondays usually gets around 14,000 users so getting to 1.2 million is an astonishing feat. @kibeandy however angered Kenyans as he supported the Finance Bill 2024 though he later changed his mind and joined the protests. 




After the president conceded and agreed to withdraw the Finance Bill 2024, another X space was hosted by user @kimuzi with the title Why is Ruto lying?? No Retreat, No Surrender which had the highest number of users tuned it than the first one held on Saturday. This one discussed the President’s speech, whether to trust him and whether to continue with the Finance Bill protests. The listeners were divided on whether the President was being truthful or not about the fact that he had withdrawn the bill as according to the law, he has no powers to do so. This led to a division in opinion on whether to continue with the protests or not. Hence the heightened interest. 

It had been a difficult uncertain week with people being shot at and dying. No sooner was one clear that one course of action was bound to happen than the exact opposite happened. 


X Space: Why is Ruto lying?? No Retreat, No Surrender





While @kimuzi’s space had about 100,000 fewer listeners than @OsamaOtero’s, it still attracted a significant audience of 137,000 listeners at one point — nearly double the turnout of Saturday’s, which peaked at around 70,000 listeners. Osama Otero’s X space also led to his abduction later on while Kimuzi was not abducted since the president promised to release all those abducted. 

What was common in these X spaces was that anyone could speak and state their opinion. In fact, in the @kimuzi space, the host was asked to just let listeners speak without the need to comment after each speaker. In other words to let people just air their grievances. 

User Hanifa going by @Honeyfarsafi on Wednesday started a fundraising to collect money that will go to the deceased families and pay hospital bills for the injured. She has so far collected Kes 25 million. This amount does not include Kes 2 million that was collected for the first two victims who died in the first wave of protests. People following her said they did not want donations from politicians who are known to politicise funerals and use them as campaigning platforms to increase their popularity. If they wanted to donate they should do so like other Kenyans. There is also further fundraising going on on GoFundMe platforms with more money being raised by politicians who voted No.

Also, everything is done transparently with transactions made and posted for all to see. 

What has emerged from the X spaces is the realisation that young people and Kenyans have long sought a platform to genuinely express themselves and their frustrations, and X provided this much-needed space. They could truthfully speak out against the Kenya Kwanza Government and its flaws. 

Young people, annoyed and wary of politicians, also used X as a decision-making platform where the organic movement held a court of the people to determine their next steps. This continued even when there was a division in opinion. Twitter also emerged as a platform where people could find out the truth. This after the president said that 6 people died while on twitter, the names of those who passed away are listed as 16 so far. The number injured remains unknown.

Additionally, Kenyans used X to organise protests, disseminate information, and rally support for various causes, amplifying their voices and uniting their efforts in real-time.