Kenyan Protests: Succeeding Where #EndSARS Failed?

For the past three weeks, the Republic of Kenya has been engulfed in violent protests, as the Youths have occupied the streets. Among their demands, were the immediate reversal of the nation’s controversial Finance Bill 2024, good governance, and even the resignation of the country’s President, William Ruto. So far, the Government of Kenya has responded and jettisoned the Finance Bill. Like Nigeria’s #EndSARS which took place in October, 2020, the Kenyan protests have claimed several innocent lives. Dr Mudiaga Odje, Richmond Ekhosuehi Idaeho and Bolaji Idowu examine the correlation between these two African Youth Protests, and what lessons can be learned therefrom

Correlation and Lessons from Kenya’s Uprising and Nigeria’s #EndSARS Protests

Dr Mudiaga Odje


Indeed, the recent gale of protests in Kenya accentuated primarily by Tax Bill of the Government, must be sending cold shivers down other countries in Africa, especially  Sub Saharan, Africa.

The protests were spontaneous as they were, nevertheless, well orchestrated in focus and methodology.

The uprising as it  were, reminiscent of the Arab Spring, was agitated mainly against draconian tax regulations that portend to further emasculate the already weather beaten citizenry.

Kenya’s Transformation to a Neo-Colonialist Hub

Kenya, a hitherto tourist haven for wildlife and natural habitation, has over the years been turned into a hub of neo-colonialism and imperialistic incursions from both the West and East of the world blocs. These neo-colonialists have become major shareholders in Kenyan’s economy, and by extension, her affairs as well. And, this has led to the obfuscation of indigenous enterprises, and local participation in their economy and the affairs of government.

Understandably, these downturn of events provoked the Youths and sympathetic adult elements of Kenya, to rise up for their denied rights to good government and transparency.

The uprising was well focused on the leaders and leadership of the executive and legislative arms, whose laws and implementation are the root causes of their annihilation as it were. Key points of these attacks were the axiomatic fact that these resistors did not destroy any viable public property, nor attack innocent hardworking businessmen or businesses, unlike what took place in our #EndSARS protests in 2020.

Narrow Focus of #EndSARS, Unlike the Kenyan Uprising

In Kenya, the Youths actually had their focus on government and governance, and not Police brutality, nor their excesses.

In Nigeria, the major plank of the #EndSARS riots was the high-handedness of the Police. In fact, #EndSARS started from Ughelli in Delta State, on the alleged brutality meted out on the s- called Yahoo Boys by the Police and the EFCC. So, the focus in Nigeria, unlike Kenya, was the manhandling of Youths by the Police. And, that made the #EndSARS riots to be parochial and lose all focus for communal and national good, unlike the noble cause in Kenya.

#EndSARS was further marred by the hijack of the cause by hoodlums, who started attacking everyone and everything!

Anywhere they are shown, they attacked, including public assets that would have been helpful to their wellbeing in present and the future. Palaces of Kings were destroyed; Police stations attacked; Private houses attacked; Public buildings like the Lagos High Court, the State of the art Lagos State DNA Laboratory, destroyed; Innocent citizens harassed and molested. So, it was a complete mayhem, and not a revolutionary uprising like the Kenyan experience

Gains of the Kenyan Uprising

The most important gain and severe benefit of the Kenyan revolution, has been the immediate withdrawal of the Tax Bills and obnoxious economic reforms by the government.This is a very significant win for the people.

And, now, the Kenyan government has stepped up genuine efforts to address the reasons for the justified protests. This is what ought to have also happened to us, as a result of #EndSARS.

Sadly, because of the narrow confines of the #EndSARS Protests, there were no gains at all, not for the people or even the aggrieved Youth  protesters.

Quo Vadis

In conclusion, it is postulated that whilst the protests in Kenya have a focus and genuine grievance over bad governance and tax policies, the #EndSARS had no focus, nor objective, except a reactionary rebellion against Police high-handedness and brutality. And, it was doomed to fail, as it had no collective objective for the good of the entire nation and governance.

We do hope that the Kenyan uprising will act as enabling guide, and offer a veritable inspiration to our Youths to focus their protects on the leaders and leadership of the Nigerian State as well as their obnoxious policies, which have made us, the governed, become paupers in all ramifications.

Dr Akpo Mudiaga Odje, LLD, LLM (Merit) (London), BL; Constitutional Lawyer and Member of the British Council

Democracy, Governance and the Right to Peaceful Protest: The Kenyan Example

Richmond Ekhosuehi Idaeho


Democracy is acclaimed as the government of the people, being a system of government where power is vested in the people through their elected representatives. Etymologically, democracy is derived from two Greek words “demos” meaning “people”, and “kratos” which itself is from “kratia” that is “to rule”. It is a system premised on majority rule, literarily “rule by the people”. Its origin can be traced to Athens in Greece, where the system was first practiced amidst other systems of government like oligarchy, monarchy, gerontocracy, etc which were more prominent at the time. In contemporary times, the progress of a country’s system of government is measured by its adoption and application of democratic principles.

Democracy and Governance

The principles of democracy are popularly considered as human rights, as well fundamental rights enshrined in various civil rules of the given society and international laws. Amongst some of these democratic principles are adherence to the rule of law, equality, freedom of expression, religion, and association, respect for human rights like rights to life, liberty, fair trial, amongst others. In a democratic system, these principles are usually enacted into the Constitution of the people, which is the grundnorm. When the people elect their representatives to govern them, there is the expectation that these representatives will ensure the people enjoy the dividends of democracy.

In the above regard, governance becomes synonymous with the process whereby the representatives of the people apply the rules, norms, and laws of the society in its administration of the society for the good of the people and the society. Governance in this instance, could either be good or bad. Good governance would be a situation where the representatives and public institutions act responsibly, in such a manner that they conduct public affairs and use public resources for the betterment of the people and the society; whereas, bad governance would be the other way round and usually a common cause for opposition to the government which could be through protests and other forms of expression of grievances by the people.

It is noted that, certain actions of government may though not be necessarily bad, but could spark opposition by the people, particularly where they negatively affect the people or their livelihood, lifestyle, etc. There have been such protests in recent years across different countries of the world and territories, as for example the recent protest in the French South Pacific archipelago, New Caledonia, over the ban of Tiktok in the territory by the French Government.

Protests are meant to mount pressure on the government, to do or undo certain actions. A right to peaceful protest, is an important aspect of democracy and governance. It is a way the people express their freedom of speech and assembly, demand for accountability from the government for its actions, influence policies and decision-making processes, express their dissent and disapproval over government policies, actions and programmes, as well as promote their rights and interests.

Protests in Nigeria and Kenya

A common feature of protests in these days and times, is that they usually begin on social media platforms and are carried out by the Youth or the young population of the country. In Nigeria for example, the #EndSARS protest would resonate in the minds of many. Here, the Youth started with the protest on social media with the hashtag #EndSARS, against Police brutality, injustice and violation of human rights, and seeking better conditions of life for the security agency, Police reform, and good governance. This protest later moved from the online platforms to the streets and major areas across different parts of the country, albeit in a peaceful fashion. 

The prominent location was the Lekki Toll Plaza aka Lekki Toll Gate, where protesters gathered together for several days beginning on 8th October, 2020 to voice home their demands. This protest gained international attention, with some celebrities and icons across the world lending their support for the “movement”. However, the protest was disrupted when a combination of military personnel and the Police disrupted the peaceful protest at the Lekki Toll Plaza on the night of 20th October, 2020, which action was reported to have resulted to several fatalities, with many suffering various degrees of injuries. 

The aftermath of the intervention by the security forces led to violent protests across different parts of the country, particularly Lagos State where the incident happened, which resulted to the destruction and vandalisation of some government properties, as well as damage to and looting of some private properties and businesses. Eventually, the Federal Government yielded to the call to end the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) Police unit, leading to the disbandment of the unit. The Lagos State Government then set up the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution on the Lekki Toll Gate shooting incident, as well as review of cases of Police brutality and human rights violations. 

After several months, the Panel submitted its report to the Lagos State Government on 15th November, 2021. Some of its findings included that there were 48 casualties, with 9 confirmed dead, 4 others presumed to have died, and 24 injured persons. There were various unofficial reports that the death toll was far more. Further, the Panel found that the protesters were peaceful, and that the shooting by the military and the Police against the protesters was a massacre and that there were attempts by the security agencies to clean up the scene and cover up, while useful evidence were also being tampered with. The Panel recommended compensation for the victims of #EndSARS, as well as other victims of Police brutality. A total of N410.2 million was awarded as compensation to 70 victims of Police abuses, brutality, and extra-judicial killings.  

Following the #EndSARS incident, there was massive participation of the Youth in the voters’ registration exercise ahead of the 2023 general elections, and they participated massively during the elections in a bid to ensuring that they elect the representatives of their choosing. 

In Kenya, the Youth, mostly the Gen Z, on 18th June, 2024 took to the streets and social media under the hashtag “Reject Finance Bill” to protest the new Finance Bill and other alleged constitutional infractions by the government led by President William Ruto, while demanding for more accountable governance. Some other factors that fuelled the protest include high cost of living, high rate of inflation, and perceived excessive spending and corruption by the government. 

The Finance Bill 2024 had introduced new tax measures like 15% tax on the earnings of digital content creators and influencers, and increase in taxes on some social activities including betting, notwithstanding the increase in other essential activities. The protest, just like #EndSARS, which was largely conducted around the parliament complex in central Nairobi, is reported to have had the Police firing live rounds of ammunition into the crowd of protesters on 25th June, 2024. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) reported that at least 39 persons had died, 361 persons injured persons, 627 arrests made and 32 cases of “enforced or involuntary disappearances” across the country. The President yielded to the protest by refusing to sign the Finance Bill into law, but, the protest has gone beyond just the rejection of the Finance Bill to demanding for good governance, and calling for the President to step down. 

In a further response to the people, the President announced a massive cut down of the budget to compensate for revenue loss arising from the rejection of the Finance Bill 2024. The austerity measures to be introduced would save some cost for the government, apparently freeing up some income, which the government could have obtained if the Finance Bill had been passed. It is noted that, while the government reaction to the protest has been one of a mix of repression and acceptance, it cannot be overemphasised that there remains a need for the government to create a system of transparency and trust for its processes and actions, and open dialogue with the people. 

In Nigeria today, despite the #EndSARS protest, the recent “removal” of fuel subsidy resulting in a massive hike in the cost of petroleum products, the galloping inflation, high cost of living, and the enormous taxes, the Government is yet to announce any measure to cut down the spending of government. There are other areas that appear to be of more priority to the Government, like building hospital for the legislative members and workers, renovation of residences of government officials, debate over purchase of a jet for the presidential fleet, whilst the demand by organised Labour Union for increase of minimum wage lingers on ad infinitum.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that these protests in recent years have brought about some level of dialogue between the Government and the people, and created a consciousness for accountability in governance, the need for reforms and address Youth unemployment and high cost of living. The #EndSARS protest in Nigeria and the current protest in Kenya were both led by young people, whose major demands were for positive change and good governance. They both shared similarities of being leaderless, driven and organised through social media. While the #EndSARS protest was as a result of Police brutality, corruption, and violation of human rights, the Kenya protests were in response to the Finance Bill which had introduced new and increased existing taxes in the country. Sadly, the reactions of the security agencies to both protests has been the same, which is to fire live ammunition on the Protesters, with tens of people recorded dead. Just as the Nigeria protest, the Kenya protest has also attracted international attention and concerns, and a call for meaningful dialogue and reform. In time to come, there could be investigations into the reported human rights violations and shootings.


In summary, the people have a right to peaceful protest and in a democratic society, it is expected that the government should protect the right of the people to peaceful protest rather than trample upon it and compromise the safety of the protesters. Unfortunately, this had been the case with the #EndSARS protest in Nigeria and the #RejectFinanceBill protest in Kenya. 

The right to peaceful protest is recognised under international human rights law, including the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Governments must therefore make concerted efforts to respect and protect the right to peaceful protests, desist from causing mayhem to protesters, show commitment to and imbibe democratic values, ensure there is accountability in governance, be open to constructive dialogue from the people and their dissents rather than resorting to the use of force and repression, uphold the rule of law, respect for human rights, and the principles of good governance. 

Richmond Ekhosuehi Idaeho, Legal Practitioner, Jackson, Etti & Edu, Lagos

Kenyan Protests: Any Lessons for Nigeria?

Babajide Idowu


The media has been awash with the wide protests in Kenya as a result of a recently withdrawn Finance Bill which sought, among other things, the introduction of a 1.5% housing levy, a 16% tax on petroleum products and a 16% value-added tax (VAT) on money that policyholders receive as compensation from insurance companies.

The protest which has now been quelled, has similarities with the 2020 Nigerian #EndSARS protest, and the focus of this paper is to determine what lessons we could learn in Nigeria. Just like the #EndSARS protest, the agitations which were majorly spearheaded by Youths were done to ensure that the Government met the demands and wishes of the people.

By way of introduction, I believe that Kenya’s experience with the Finance Bill 2024 stresses the need for Nigeria and many African countries to, rather than follow the neoliberal tendencies of the Bretton Woods system, come up with innovative ways of ensuring that there is a balance between the need to raise government revenue (the Bill was part of the Kenyan government’s efforts to raise an extra $2.7 billion in domestic revenue), and the burden put on citizens in form of taxes.


The 2024 Kenyan protests, even though deadly, from all reports seemed to have been a success, since the government succumbed to the request of protesters by withdrawing the Bill. One of the major lessons for Nigerian Youths from the Kenyan protests, is related to the concerns of young protesters as it relates to the use/intervention of security agencies. It would be recalled that the #EndSARS protests came to an abrupt end without much success, after the deployment of security agencies to points where the protests were taking place. The Kenyan experience has exposed how the Judiciary could save the day in this regard. The High Court in Kenya prohibited the National Police Service from using water cannons, tear gas, live ammunition, rubber bullets, and other crude weapons against protesters opposing the Finance Bill 2024. Justice Mugure Thande’s ruling also barred the Police from using brute force or engaging in extrajudicial killings, arrests, abductions, harassment, or any inhumane treatment of protesters. The decision followed a petition by one Saitabao Ole Kanchory, who argued that the Police had been violating protesters’ rights through arbitrary arrests and intimidation.

It is yet to be seen, whether Nigerian courts would be able to give such proactive rulings. While I agree that a contemptuous government may not comply with such a ruling, it is my firm belief that the existence of such a ruling on the extent of force that could be applied in cases of peaceful protests, would help boost the confidence of Nigerian Youths who may not be willing to risk their lives on the altar of protests. The Nigerian legal framework already provides a framework for the protection of citizens and their rights. Section 46 of the Nigerian Constitution as amended, allows for any person who alleges that any of the provisions of Chapter 4 of the Constitution has been, is being or is likely to be contravened in any State, to apply to a High Court in that State for redress. The big question is however, determining the reaction of Nigerian courts to this situation. The provisions in Chapter 4 that are likely to be contravened are in Sections 33 (Right to life); 34 (Right to dignity of human persons); 35 (Right to personal liberty); 36 (Right to a fair hearing); 40 (Right to peaceful assembly and association) and 41 (Right to freedom of movement) of the Nigerian Constitution. 

The major issues however, surround the administration of justice. For instance, how fast would the courts sit on such a matter? How long would it take for a Judge to be assigned to such a case? It seems with this development, the Kenyan Judiciary seems to be blazing the trail in Africa, especially if the prompt manner in which its election petitions at least, at the Presidential level, are dispensed with.

Another major lesson from Kenya, is the absence of opposition parties and political groups. Unlike what is obtainable in Nigeria, as seen in the #EndSARS protests, the legitimate concerns of the people are ignored, and things become a political war where the incumbent political party believes that the protests are being instigated by the opposition. To survive the next phase, protests should be organic, and should try to prevent infiltration by political parties and opposition figures. After all, no provision in the Constitution, makes it compulsory for protesters to be part of an association before exercising the option to protest peacefully. Furthermore, such a strategy, makes it difficult for draconian governments to clamp down on particular individuals, who may be useful in building the necessary momentum to make such protests successful.

By and large, the Kenyan protests provide yet another reason why governments across the world, should feel the pulse of their people before making such decisions. While the hope is to ensure that such protests are peaceful, more often than not, such protests always lead to at least one casualty. It is therefore, best that, the grouses of the people are even addressed before they are forced to go on the streets.

Babajide Idowu, Legal Practitioner, Lagos

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