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Violent Clashes in Nairobi as Protesters Storm Parliament Over Tax Hikes, Several Dead

Demonstrators try to obstruct a police vehicle as police use water cannons to disperse protesters during a demonstration against Kenya's proposed finance bill 2024/2025 in Nairobi, Kenya, June 25, 2024. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi
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NAIROBI,- Police opened fire on demonstrators attempting to storm Kenya’s legislature on Tuesday, resulting in at least five deaths, dozens of injuries, and parts of the parliament building set ablaze. The chaos erupted as lawmakers inside passed contentious legislation to raise taxes.

Protesters overwhelmed the police and chased them away in their bid to enter the parliament compound. Flames were seen inside the building, intensifying the turmoil.

When tear gas and water cannons failed to disperse the crowds, police resorted to live ammunition. A Reuters journalist counted the bodies of at least five protesters outside parliament. Paramedic Vivian Achista reported that at least ten had been shot dead. Another paramedic, Richard Ngumo, stated that over 50 people had been wounded by gunfire, as he helped load injured protesters into an ambulance.

“We want to shut down parliament and every MP should go down and resign,” said protester Davis Tafari. “We will have a new government.”

Police eventually managed to clear the protesters from the building amidst clouds of tear gas and gunfire. Lawmakers were evacuated through underground tunnels, according to local media reports.

The internet across the country experienced severe disruptions during the police crackdown, as reported by internet monitor Netblocks.

Protests and clashes spread to several other cities and towns, with many demonstrators calling for President William Ruto to resign and expressing their opposition to the tax hikes.

Parliament approved the finance bill, moving it to a third reading by lawmakers. The next step is for the legislation to be sent to the president for signing, who can return it to parliament if he has any objections.

Ruto, who won the election nearly two years ago on a platform of supporting Kenya’s working poor, now faces the challenge of balancing the demands of lenders like the International Monetary Fund, urging deficit cuts for more funding, and a population grappling with economic hardships.


The finance bill aims to raise an additional $2.7 billion in taxes to reduce the heavy debt burden, with interest payments consuming 37% of annual revenue.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Finance Bill to facilitate dialogue. “I am disturbed by the murders, arrests, detentions, and surveillance being perpetrated by police on boys and girls who are only seeking to be heard over taxation policies that are stealing both their present and future,” he said in a statement.

Despite government concessions to scrap proposed new taxes on essential items like bread and cooking oil, protesters remain unsatisfied.

Tuesday’s protests began peacefully but escalated as police fired tear gas in Nairobi’s Central Business District and the poor neighborhood of Kibera. Protesters retaliated by throwing stones at police.

In Eldoret, Ruto’s hometown, police fired tear gas at crowds filling the streets, with many businesses closed due to fears of violence. Clashes also erupted in the coastal city of Mombasa, and demonstrations took place in Kisumu on Lake Victoria and Garissa in eastern Kenya, where police blocked the main road to Somalia’s port of Kismayu.

In Nairobi, chants of “Ruto must go” filled the air as protesters waved Kenyan flags and blew whistles before the violence intensified.

Police did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

An Organic Movement

Thousands took to the streets during two days of protests last week, driven by an online, youth-led movement without an official leader. Initially focused on the finance bill, their demands have expanded to include President Ruto’s resignation.

The opposition boycotted the vote in parliament, shouting “reject, reject” as the bill items were considered. The bill will undergo a third and final vote by acclamation.

The finance ministry warned that amendments could create a 200 billion Kenyan shilling ($1.56 billion) deficit in the 2024/25 budget, forcing spending cuts or further tax increases.

“They are budgeting for corruption,” said 18-year-old protester Hussein Ali. “We won’t relent. It’s the government that is going to back off, not us.”

Source: Reuters