Compared to the trigger Occupy Wall St. movement, a few remarks can be made about Kenya’s #OccupyParliament, some of them not good. That protesters have decided to take on a single issue, the greed of Kenya’s MPs, riddles the movement with uncertainty ever since the Parliamentary Service Commission and Salaries and Remuneration Commission came to an amicable decision on a payment plan for members of parliament. It is also faced with challenges similar to those of Occupy Wall St.
#OccupyParliament lacks a clear ideological standpoint or a centralised leadership – pointers towards legitimacy in our neoliberal time. Inasmuch as sympathetic support from the public was derived from Occupy’s egalitarianism and direct democracy (and thus, diminished centralised control) and its amorphous anti-capitalist tendency in a time of economic hardship, the Kenyan movement does not have the benefit of the doubt.
#OccupyParliament is also not a sustained occupation of a space, another core tenet of #OWS creating a linkage between sustained protest and devotion to the cause of bringing the hub of capitalist accumulation and corporate-state impunity to a close. This will be a lasting reminder of Occupy Wall St. and speaks to the antagonism between the US government with its attendant corporate sector (or is it the other way round?) and a large number of US citizens and residents may they be homeless, students in debt, the unemployed and other groups of the economically vulnerable that increasingly include middle class property owners.
But should #OccupyParliament seek to compare itself with the larger global movement? If there is anything to learn over the past one and a half years, from the protests that toppled government in Libya and Tunisia to Egypt, the Indignados of Spain who triggered seismic activity in New York and the rest of the global north is that the Occupy Movement is a name for contesting the issues that are surprisingly local but with intuitive global extrapolations. If there’s anything to be learned from the description of the spatial coverage of the winds of change is that as new issues emerge others that are untranslatable into new geographies are serendipitously discarded. And it is this in mind that we must examine #OccupyParliament.
Temporal and passing as the protests may be, the fact that there have been huge protests for so brief a period of time since the elections shows that younger Kenyans are beginning to look to alternative methods of securing change. #OccupyParliament thus reveals a yearning not only against the tide of aggrandizement prevalent among political elites but also of more ways in which the public can participate in the move to seek change.
Kenne Mwikya blogs at http://kennemwikya.wordpress.com