Explainer: 'Saba Saba' and why it's so iconic in Kenyan politics

• The very first Saba Saba rally took place on July 7, 1990, at Nairobi's Kamukunji Grounds

Protesters in Nairobi CBD
Image: mpasho

This week's planned anti-government protests are dubbed, 'Road to Saba Saba,' a 7-day journey to what netizens now call the new 'Saba Saba', 34 years after the first iconic movement. 

All counties have promised to take to the streets as they protest against undelivered government promises, police brutality, and heightened mismanagement of public funds to mention a few of the issues raised.

A few of the younger Gen Z's are however a little clueless on what the slogan for this week's total shutdown really means.

Hence the question, "What is Saba Saba and why is it iconic?"

Every nation has its pivotal moments, those turning points that shape its identity and future. For Kenya, one such moment is the 7th of July, affectionately known as Saba Saba.

A date that has become synonymous with the clamor for democracy and the defiance of autocratic rule.

But why is this particular day etched in the annals of Kenyan history fueling the current generation's fight against the government?

The term itself translates to "Seven Seven", referencing the 7th day of the 7th month. It’s as if destiny played a cunning game of bingo, drawing memorable numbers that'd forever alter the course of Kenyan politics. 

The roots of the Saba Saba movement trace back to a group of intrepid leaders who dared to challenge the status quo.

Among them were the likes of Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia, and Raila Odinga. These political luminaries, frustrated by the repressive regime of then-President Daniel Arap Moi, galvanized the masses towards the restoration of multiparty democracy in Kenya.

The inaugural Saba Saba rally took place on July 7, 1990, at Nairobi's Kamukunji Grounds. What began as a peaceful assembly quickly escalated into a full-blown confrontation with government forces.

The state's heavy-handed response, characterized by tear gas, arrests, and brutal crackdowns, only fueled the determination of the protestors as citizens demanded their democratic rights.

Saba Saba marked the awakening of Kenya's political consciousness. The bravery displayed by ordinary citizens in the face of state-sponsored violence demonstrated an unyielding desire for change.

It galvanized the push towards a multiparty system, culminating in the constitutional amendments of 1991 that ended KANU's monopoly on power.

Saba Saba is more than a date; it's a symbol of hope, resilience, and the unrelenting quest for a fair and just society. Its spirit is invoked in contemporary struggles for justice, equity, and good governance. 

Read also:

Check out the latest news here and you are welcome to join our super exclusive Mpasho WhatsApp group for all the latest and breaking news in entertainment. We would also like to hear from you, WhatsApp us on +254 736 944935.