Can we Learn Anything From the Yellow Vest Movement.

If there is a thing any president of a country cannot dream to wake up to is a protest. For the past couple of weeks however, France’s Macron has had it rough with protests. The yellow vest movement swept through the French country like a tsunami. The “Les gilets jaunes” (the yellow vests) as they refer to themselves thronged the streets in yellow reflector vests in protest of the 20% increase in the fuel prices and taxes.

It wasn’t an all peaceful protest due to the fact that there were fiery exchanges between the protesters and police. These demonstrators went as far as blocking roundabouts and destroyed key infrastructures that will need tens of millions of euros to repair.  They included roads, construction equipment and dozens of emergency response vehicles.

Their point being that let them destroy the properties so that the few elite rich whom they feel are favored by this tax and fuel policies can repair them using their corrupt and stolen public resources. This is a perfect case of the ‘tired donkey’ that decided to throw down the luggage after an instinctive feeling that it was being exploited by the owner. These protests have been a war between the meager salaried masses against the 1% cream. The super-rich against the poor.

This was a serious protest from what the numbers indicate. The protest that began on the 17th of November attracted over a quarter a million people the first day alone. Precisely, about 282,000 people participated in that protest the first day with about 409 injuries. On the 24th the numbers had fallen to about 166,000 thousand people and about 307 injuries. Note though that the spirit had not been weakened at all. By 8th of December the numbers had slightly reduced to about 136,000 people with fewer injuries but a high number of people held in custody.

In fact, on the first day only 73 people were put in custody. The number rose drastically on December 8th with 1,120 people being held in custody. Then came the president’s concession speech over the slippery issues that were being demonstrated for about two weeks ago and still the protests continued although the numbers declined considerably. The reason for the continued demonstration is the need for further concessions that include wealth redistribution, salary increments as well as pensions and social security payments.

That is not all though. There is part of the protesters that won’t settle for anything less than the resignation of the 40 year old French president; Emmanuel Macron. If this is anything to go by, it means then that the protests are not ending any time soon.

Yellow vest movement
Protesters barricading roads during the yellow vest movement in France. Photo Courtesy of

I have gone into details to highlight the issues under contention here because we can connect with them as country. Not us alone though but even as a continent at large. There are a lot of issues to do with corruption, disparity in salaries, a very low minimum wage and most importantly a wide gap between the poor and rich. Perhaps these issues might not look as the elephant in the room, but unless governments come out and address them, they may mean the destruction of our repressive regimes in the near future.

The mass protests experiences in other countries in the past week could end up in our soil, Kenya and Africa as a whole. Lots of protesters came out in Brussels, Belgium to stand against the anti-immigration laws that the citizenry felt were not in their best interests while in Hungary protesters were on the roads last week over the proposed labor laws.

For the Hungarian labor laws, the proposal was saying that workers could do up to 400 hours of overtime cumulatively by a year I suppose payable by the employing company up to a period of 3 years. The workers couldn’t take it well with this move and so they took to the streets. The 3% housing fund back at home has been put on hold because the workers feel they are being shortchanged.

In other words the issue of inclusivity in policy making will become a huge issue of contention as we go forward. As I said a few weeks ago, it is very important that policy formulations have all the key stakeholder on the table. And this is one of the areas over which a lot of African countries are failing terribly.

Africa is full of corrupt leaders and a large wealth distribution gap. This will be a big issue especially when the citizens are hearing and witnessing mega corruption deals and theft of public resources. It is a fact that it is happening. When the African citizen will get fed up at some point, some won’t stop at anything save for regime changes. It is something our leaders should be prepared for.

And it doesn’t matter whether the leader is the cause of these repressive policies. As long as the ultimate decision stops with them, any failure to exercise those powers as expected of him is a betrayal to the larger citizenry. And the best way to avoid this is to be prepared.

To be prepared here does not mean to sit and wait for the worst to happen and then start mitigating it from there onward, nay. Actually to allow issues to reach a demonstration point means serious failure. Preparation here then means correcting the mistakes, repairing the bridges, promoting inclusivity, having the interests of the majority middle and low class first as opposed to minority rich as well as having the right competent individuals in right places.

The best any African leader can do is learn from the protests happening in the rest of the world involving critical and serious issues. Being or feeling only empathic to the leader under siege won’t help much. The siege is no respecter of persons and can befall our leaders any point, any day. It is only a matter of time and the story will never be the same again? Simply said, don’t wake up the seeping lions even if they look like shivering cats.

Come to think of this way, if about a thousand opposition demonstrators turn tables round in our country Kenya, what can over 250,000 demonstrators angry with a regime do? Thousands of people participated in the civil rights movements in the US in the 60’s and the country could never be the same again. We can only learn from these incidences if we can. Otherwise we will be caught off guard and swept off the hook. In the face of a hurricane, nothing stands on its way.


Copyright @ 2018

Season’s greetings to you all and happy new year my lovely readers. I love you all.

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Politics, Policy, Technology, Current Affairs, Opinion, Agriculture, Energy, Education, Entrepreneurship, Governance, International Emerging Issues, Society, and culture. For featuring, promotions or support write to us at
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