This East African nation is known for stability. But drought and rising prices are fueling insecurity and unrest.
In midmorning, a group of more than a dozen young people, dressed in traditional black robes, is walking across the dusty expanse of Uhuru Park in Nairobi, a sprawling neighborhood with a mix of modern and historic buildings. Across the street, an armed man in a green army uniform sits under a bridge, smoking and taking in the sun.
Kenya’s opposition party, the National Super Alliance, or Al-Kamal (“Long Live Kamal”), is leading a campaign that has become a staple of Kenyan life: peaceful marches, sit-ins, and more. The goal is to prevent President Uhuru Kenyatta from consolidating powers and becoming Kenya’s first elected civilian president since independence from British colonial rule in 1966.
But the opposition, with the help of the government, now holds one of its largest rallies in the country’s recent history. Hundreds of protesters have gathered in Nairobi to voice their frustrations over a new constitution designed by the government that would give it more power and make it even more authoritarian—and potentially more dangerous—if fully implemented.
The protests are taking place across the country, from the capital’s suburbs to rural villages. There are demonstrations in Nairobi as well as in the Kenyan cities of Kitui and Embu, where a youth leader, Emmanuel Chirchir, was recently beaten up by riot police.
There are protests in Kenya, where an estimated 12.9 million people are facing water shortages, protests that have seen scores of people arrested and hundreds of people injured since the beginning of the year. Many of the protesters are youth from the rural areas where many Kenyans struggle with poverty and hunger.
And then there are those for whom hunger and poverty are a way of life. In the capital, Kenyatta, protesters are demanding a redistribution of the nation’s $2.6 billion in oil and gas revenue from state-owned assets, which they say would help the rural poor. In the coastal city of Mombasa, residents have taken to the streets and blocked roads as they fight to save their livelihoods, which include fishing and fishing-related businesses like tourism and fish processing.
Protesters are calling for Kenyatta to step down immediately, and