Kenyan activists intimidated as disgruntled citizens stage online protest against IMF loans Global Voices

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Mr. Henry K. Rotich, Kenya Cabinet Secretary to the National Treasury, speaking at the Governance Gap forum hosted by the World Bank Group in 2016. “100616_Gouvernance Gap_MC Atrium” through World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

For three days, Kenyans online have been protesting online against the decision of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to approve a $ 2.34 billion loan facility for Kenya, urging the multilateral agency to reconsider its decision.

Using hashtags #StopLoaningKenya and #StopGivingKenyaLoans, Kenyans rejected the loan and expressed frustration with the IMF for approving additional debt in what they see as another national debt repayment burden, at a time of corruption and embezzlement of public funds. intensified. This current loan is intended to finance a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the past 12 months alone, Kenya has received $ 6.4 billion in grants and loans for the COVID-19 response, according to a list compiled by Mary Mukami, an accountant by trade and social media user, media coverage.

While many directed their frustrations at the IMF, most were angry with President Uhuru Kenyatta and his government for continuing to burden Kenyans with bad loans and more debt, despite increased corruption and lack of accountability. . Using screenshots from newspaper headlines, many Twitter users gave their many reasons and evidence why the IMF should stop lending to Kenya.

Kenyan activist arrested

On April 7, as online protests continued, Kenyan activist Mutemi Kiama was arrested for allegedly creating and posting a poster warning the IMF against giving President Uhuru a new loan Kiama, who tweets using @MutemiWaKiama and @WanjikuRevolt, posted a public notice poster on his twitter handle with a warning from Kenyan citizens warning global lenders against dealing with the president and his vice president.

The next day, Kiama was brought to court for violating various provisions of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act, including false publication. However, the High Court of Kenya dismissed the case presented by the prosecution and refused to allow 14 days to collect evidence. Despite the lack of any cause to detain him, the court ordered Kiama’s release against a cash bond of $ 5,000.

Another Kenyan activist, Boniface Mwangi, called for questioning the Kenya High Court ruling, describing it as a “strong threat” to all Kenyan social media users against criticism of the government.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) has also condemned the unwarranted targeting of activists calling for an end to it.

Petition to stop lending in Kenya

As the virtual protests entered their second day, part of Kenyans hijacked comments section of the IMF’s ongoing Facebook Live series which broadcasts press conferences and webinars on the outlook for the global economy, and posted the message “STOP LOANING KENYA”, with the aim of asking the lender to withdraw the facility. Posts posted to the IMF’s Facebook page since the online protests began have garnered an average of 2,000 comments, all from Kenyans pleading with the IMF.

On April 4, Jefferson Murrey, a concerned Kenyan citizen, created an online petition to the IMF to cancel the Kshs. Loan of 255 billion to Kenya. A section of the details of his petition reads:

The news that the IMF recently approved a Kshs. A $ 255 billion loan to the Kenyan government has left many Kenyans shocked and very disappointed. This is because previous loans to the Government of Kenya were not used with caution and often resulted in mega corruption scandals. These scams have not dampened the Jubilee government’s appetite for more loans, especially from China. Right now, Kenyans are suffocating under the burden of heavy taxation, with the cost of basic commodities such as fuel skyrocketing, and nothing to show for previous loans. Our president, Uhuru Kenyatta, even officially laments that Kshs. 2 billion are lost daily due to corruption in Kenya. The same president recently approved a luxury car bribe to get young lawmakers to pass controversial constitutional changes, punching another hole in an already tight budget.

At the time of this story’s filing, over 230,000 Kenyans had so far signed the petition, many of whom shared the link on their social credentials.

Kenyans on Twitter – KOT

Kenya’s Twitter community, also known as KOT, has become a force to be reckoned with. Due to the ubiquity of cheap cell phones, a large number of Kenyans are online and for many, platforms such as Twitter have become an important medium not only to voice their opinions but also to organize and organize themselves. to rally to a common cause. A recent article written by this writer for Global Voices reported on how the Kenyan government and police are aware of the power of the Twitter platform.

As Kenya kicks off elections in 2023, activists such as Boniface and many others are warning social media users to ‘hang on’ to an increase in arrests of bloggers and activists as the state doubles its misuse of anti-cybercrime legislation to stifle dissent.

Update: We had incorrectly stated that the deposit for Kenyan activist Mutemi wa Kiama was 500 USD, the exact amount of the deposit was 5000 USD. This error has been corrected.


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