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Video shows residents of Kenya's northern Wajir region protesting over police killings, not maize meal prices

IN SHORT: A video shared on Twitter in early May 2023 purporting to show protesters in Wajir, Kenya, demanding cheaper maize flour was about something else entirely.

A video posted on Twitter in early May 2023 shows a protest in Wajir, a town in the northeastern county of the same name, about 700 kilometres away from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.  

The video is about a minute and a half long and shows a crowd of people protesting in the streets. There is smoke everywhere. Police officers can be seen chasing some of the demonstrators, beating them with cudgels and rifles, and shouting at them. 

Other officers can be seen shooting in the air to disperse the protesters.

In the video, Wajir North member of parliament, Ibrahim Abdi Saney, speaks out against the police's actions. 

The governor of Wajir, Ahmed Abdullahi, also criticises the police officers who “have done the act”, calling them criminals. The video displays the logo of Citizen Digital, the digital arm of one of the country's leading media networks.

The tweet posted with the video, written in a mix of Kiswahili and English, reads: “Mambo imechemuka kidogo pale wajir. Residence of wajir demand the ksh. 150 UNGA that Riggy G has been shouting about from Monday to Monday.”

This can be roughly translated as: “Things are boiling over a bit in Wajir. Residents of Wajir demand the KSh150 maize flour that Riggy G has been shouting about from Monday to Monday [all week long].” 

Riggy G is a nickname for deputy president Rigathi Gachagua.

The tweet has been viewed over 12,500 times, liked over 250 times and retweeted over 50 times.

WajirProtests_False

Unga politics

Ugali is a staple food in Kenya. It’s a porridge made from maize meal, which is known as unga in Kiswahili. 

The price of unga is a major issue in the country, particularly during political campaigns. Past governments have heavily subsidised maize-meal prices, particularly during the 2017 and 2022 election campaigns. 

President Willian Ruto stopped an existing subsidy when he took office in September 2022, saying his government would instead focus on production. 

Despite assurances from the presidency to reduce the cost of living, especially of unga, prices have remained high in most places. In his Labour Day speech on 1 May 2023, the deputy president Gachagua said the price of unga had dropped to KSh150, to audible disagreement from the crowd. He insisted that the price was between KSh150 and KSh170 “depending on where you buy”.

But were the Wajir residents in the video doing the rounds on social media protesting about the cost of maize meal? We checked.

Wajir protests about police killings

A Google search for “Wajir protests” brings up videos and reports of the incident from 5 May. We found the same video here and a longer explanatory video of the same event here

From the videos and this news article featuring the first video, it is clear that the protests had nothing to do with the price of unga. 

Wajir residents were protesting the alleged killing of two people by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officers in the area. The KWS said the men were suspected poachers. One man died during the protests.

The video shows real protests in Wajir in May 2023, but the claim that the protesters were demonstrating against maize meal prices is false.

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