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Symbolic State Burial in Kenya's #BallotRevolution Protests

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya, Citizen Media, Politics, Protest

On 16 January 2013, peaceful protests under the banner State Burial #BallotRevolution [1] took place in capital city Nairobi. The protesters burnt over 200 coffins to symbolically represent “the death of impunity & bad leadership” of Kenya's Members of Parliament (MP), who recently increased their own salaries and benefits.

They called upon their fellow Kenyans to refrain from reelecting these MPs in the upcoming general elections, set for March 4. 

Poster for the #BallotRevolution: Uploaded by Twitter user @bonifacemwangi

Poster for the #BallotRevolution: Uploaded by Twitter user @bonifacemwangi

The blog Njathika [2] explains:

Last week members of parliament secretly passed a controversial KShs 9.3 million golden handshake. The MPs also approved that each of them gets an armed bodyguard, a diplomatic passport for the retiree and his wife and unlimited access to the executive lounge for Very Important Person in all the airports within Kenya.

President Kibaki declined to assent to the Retirement Benefits bill enacted by the National Assembly on Thursday 10th January 2013.

Parliament officially closes on Tuesday 15th and the following day we shall deliver 221 coffins one for each outgoing Member of Parliament.

The non violent, peace procession will be from Uhuru Park to parliament with thousands of Kenyans anti-vulture flags while carrying the coffin. We are holding our leaders responsible for their actions hence the coffins symbolising death to impunity & bad leadership.

This protest will signify the end of five years of impunity by the 10th parliament. The protest will also be a reminder to the leaders that Kenyans are ready for a peaceful ballot revolution.

The protest was well covered by traditional media with massive presence on social media channels Facebook and Twitter under the hashtags: #StateFuneral [3] #LoveProtest [4] and #KenyaniKwetu [5] (Note: Swahili saying which means “Kenya is Ours”).

@KenyaNiKwetu [6] made this rallying call on Twitter:

join #KenyaNiKwetu [7] at Freedom Corner Uhuru Park at 10am and let's initiate a Ballot Revolution #StateFuneral [8] #BurytheVulture [9]

@KanjiMbugua [10] tweeted:

Still puzzled about that insane MP send off package! I Pray that we don't forget these actions in march. #ballotrevolution [11]

The blog Sunwords [12] which among other things highlights:

The time for Kenyans to select new leaders is upon us again. We go to the polls in just a few weeks time. Will we choose wisely?
The precedents are not good. We know very well that most Kenyans do not choose leaders on merit. They choose them mostly on tribe. Your kinsman is your kinsman, and will get your vote. That your kinsman is also a rogue doesn’t seem to come into it; he’s your kinsman, and that is enough for you. “Your rogue” trumps “their candidate,” no matter how credible, because you believe everyone steals anyway.
This kind of thinking ensures that we remain backward. It ensures that elections in Kenya are decided by tribal voting blocs. It ensures that whoever gets the most populous tribes on his ballot becomes the overall leader. It ensures that issues such as intellect, credentials and character never come into consideration
Let’s be in no doubt: this situation is not about to change anytime soon.

@geekmsanii [13] tweets:

#BallotRevolution [14] could fail because of one thing. It's a broken revolution. Too fragmented, among too many parties.

@gothrockstar80 [15] expressed a contrary opinion:

The reality is #BallotRevolution [14] or not, we'll vote the #Mpigs [16] (pun for Mp’s)back in http://wp.me/ptBPN-6X [17] via @Tribe46thKenyan [18]

Wanjiku Revolution [19] with a sigh of relief states:

Kenyans have just burried the vultures in a fiery furnace mass grave right in front of . The #BallotRevolution [14] is on!

Most of the protesters were relatively young, an indication of an increasingly active young generation in Kenya that is bent upon keeping executive and legislative excesses in check.

However, the jury is still out on whether Kenyans will not re-elect the Members of Parliament who selfishly endorsed their hefty salary hikes and perks.