gtag('config', 'UA-12595121-1'); Kenyan Police Clash with Protesters Despite President Ruto Withdrawing Tax Hike Bill – The Zimbabwe Mail

Kenyan Police Clash with Protesters Despite President Ruto Withdrawing Tax Hike Bill

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NAIROBI,- Kenyan police fired teargas at protesters and blocked off streets leading to the presidential palace on Thursday as demonstrations continued in several cities, despite President William Ruto withdrawing a controversial tax hike bill. The protests, which have decreased in turnout compared to earlier mass rallies, were sparked by the bill and led to at least 23 deaths after clashes on Tuesday.

President Ruto retracted the tax hike legislation on Wednesday, following a day of intense unrest where parliament was briefly stormed and set ablaze. The youth-led protest movement, initially driven by online opposition to the tax hikes, has rapidly escalated into mass rallies calling for a comprehensive political overhaul.

The protest movement, lacking a formal leadership structure, is divided on how to proceed. Prominent social justice activist Boniface Mwangi voiced support for continued demonstrations but opposed calls to invade State House, the president’s official residence, warning that such actions could incite further violence and justify a crackdown.

In Nairobi, police and soldiers patrolled the streets, blocking access to State House and dispersing small groups of protesters with teargas. Medics for Kenya reported that their volunteer staff at the Jamia Mosque/Crescent hospital were affected by the teargas, condemning the violence against medical teams.

Government forces, including army vehicles, were visible on the streets following the deployment of military personnel to assist the police. Protests also occurred in the port city of Mombasa and the western city of Kisumu, though these gatherings appeared peaceful.

People protest against Kenya's proposed finance bill 2024/2025, in Nairobi

While some protesters ceased their demonstrations after the finance bill was scrapped, others remained adamant that only Ruto’s resignation would satisfy their demands. Political activist Davis Tafari emphasized that the protests were now focused on broader political changes, stating, “Right now is not about just the finance bill but about #RutoMustGo.”

Eli Owuor from Kibera, a traditional protest hotspot, also expressed his willingness to join an attempt to occupy State House, using the nickname “Zakayo” for Ruto, which references a biblical tax collector viewed as corrupt.

In a speech on Wednesday, President Ruto defended his tax hike proposals, citing the need to address Kenya’s high debt. However, he acknowledged the public’s rejection of the finance bill and announced plans to engage in dialogue with Kenyan youth and implement austerity measures, starting with cuts to the presidential budget.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is closely monitoring the situation, emphasizing its support for Kenya in overcoming economic challenges. However, ratings agency Moody’s and analysts at JPMorgan noted that shifting focus to spending cuts rather than boosting revenue could complicate future IMF funding and slow fiscal consolidation.

The current protests, unlike previous demonstrations often driven by ethnic politics, have broad appeal across Kenya, resonating with citizens frustrated by rising living costs and pervasive corruption. The protests have spread widely, even reaching President Ruto’s hometown of Eldoret.

The Kenya Medical Association reported that at least 23 people were killed nationwide and 30 were treated for bullet wounds on Tuesday, with scores more injured in Nairobi.

Source: Reuters