Kenyans mark Saba Saba Day

Kenyans mark Saba Saba Day

Kenyans are marking Saba Saba Day; a day when protesters in Kenya demanded successfully for multiparty democracy in 1990.

Kenyans have always marked the day with several activities among them pushing for better living conditions from the government.

Last year, the Coalition for reforms and Democracy (CORD) – Kenya’s opposition coalition – held a rally with an aim of calling for dialogue with the government.

There was heavy security deployment in Nairobi and its environs as police kept to their promise to ensure the Saba Saba rally was adequately secured.

Police on horseback and sniffer dogs backed by the National Youth Service (NYS) officers were deployed to strategic parts of the city and other hot spots across the country.

There have been incidents reported in the past during the Saba Saba day.

Extensive riots were reported in Nairobi and other towns in Kenya during the first week of July 1990.

The July riots were reportedly sparked in June 1990, when in an effort to silence political opposition and mounting criticism against government corruption and refusal to restore Kenya to a multiparty democracy.

The struggle against bad governance hit a new peak on July 7, 1990, when two former Cabinet ministers Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia called a public rally at the historic Kamukunji grounds, in Nairobi, to press for comprehensive constitutional and political reforms.


Pro-democracy meetings declared illegal

Besides calling on the Government to embrace pluralist politics, the two demanded the management of public affairs should be conducted in a transparent and accountable manner.

This is what gave birth to Saba Saba day, which consummated the struggle for the Second Liberation.

The overwhelming public support for Saba Saba demonstrations forced the Government to deploy armed police backed by ruthless dogs to disperse crowds.

Then President Daniel Arap Moi ordered the arrest of several reform advocates, including prominent opposition ministers, lawyers and former detainees.

A pro-democracy rally organized by members of opposition groups at Kamukunji stadium in Nairobi, on 4 July 1990 was declared illegal.

However, 6, 000 people reportedly turned up and riots broke out when a contingent of police arrived in riot gear and began using batons and tear gas to disperse the crowd.

The crowd responded by hurling stones at the police and stoning cars.

Soon, the riots spread to the outskirts of Nairobi and other towns of Kenya such as Nakuru, Muranga, Narok, Nyandarua, Kiambu, Nyeri and Thika.

The riots reportedly lasted four days and left 21 people dead, many others injured, and more than 1,000 people in Jail.

The leaders of the movement, including, among others, Rubia, Matiba, Jaramogi Odinga, Gitobu imanyara, Mohammed Ibrahim, Masinde Muliro, Martin Shikuku, and James Orengo were either detained, imprisoned or put under house arrest.

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Maureen Murimi
Story By Maureen Murimi
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