Kenya’s “Occupy Parliament”: History of the Occupy Movement

By Debra Rono

As Kenyans join the Occupy Parliament protests today to urge Members of the National Assembly to oppose certain sections of the Finance Bill 2024, it is worth noting that similar protests have occurred.

In June 2013, In an event, led by activist Boniface Mwangi and others, protesters released pigs painted with the word “Mpigs” and spilt animal blood at the entrance of the parliament buildings to highlight what they saw as greed among the parliamentarians.

Around 250 individuals carrying placards marched in Nairobi’s CBD and staged a sit-in at the parliament’s gate.

“We have spilt the blood of the pigs to show that the MPs are greedy like pigs,” said Boniface Mwangi

Earlier that year in January, several protesters set fire to 221 coffins outside the parliament, expressing their discontent towards the politicians who had approved a threefold increase in their end-of-term bonuses and granted themselves state funerals.

The protest organizers stated that the coffins were a symbolic representation of the conclusion of an era involving the 221 legislators in parliament.

By setting the coffins on fire, they aimed to signify the commencement of a fresh era, distancing themselves from the dishonourable actions that parliament had been associated with over the five years.

Throughout history, citizens have often turned to protests as a means to express their dissatisfaction with governance and to demand change.

Protests have served as a powerful tool for individuals and communities to unite, raise awareness, and push for reforms when other methods of political engagement, such as voting or lobbying, have proven ineffective or inaccessible.

The Occupy Movement was a global protest against economic inequality, social injustice, and the influence of corporations on government.

It became popular in 2011 in New York City on 17 September 2011 during the Occupy Wall Street movement where protesters occupied Zuccotti Park to champion against economic inequality, corporate influence in politics, and the lack of legal repercussions for those responsible for the financial crisis of 2008.

The movement was characterized by the slogan “We are the 99%,” highlighting the wealth disparity between the richest 1% and the rest of the population. Here’s a run-down of the movement and its impact globally.

This movement quickly spread to 951 cities across 82 countries and over 600 communities in the United States and then spread further into other nations.

The Occupy movement has in several instances been adopted in Africa. Countries like South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria, Ghana and others stood with the U.S. during the Occupy Wall Street and successfully participated in the movement.

In Nigeria, the Occupy Nigeria movement protested the fuel subsidy removal by the government in January 2012, addressing corruption and mistreatment of Nigerians. It ended on 16 January after an agreement was reached, partially restoring the subsidy.

in Ghana, it started as an online movement. Still, it later transitioned into offline demonstrations, with protesters gathering at the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park in Accra and then proceeding to The Flagstaff House to deliver their petition to President John Dramani Mahama.

The protest was due to issues like corruption, infrastructure decay, a struggling economy, and worsening economic conditions.

Tunisia joined the Occupy movement by holding a march and demonstration on the streets of Tunis, against corporate greed and the current economic crisis. Protesters brought flags and placards to the event, many with an anti-capitalism agenda.