Kenya president backs down on tax rise after deadly protests | ANG
  • July 25, 2024

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Kenyan President William Ruto said Wednesday he won’t sign into law a finance bill proposing new taxes, a day after protestors stormed parliament and several people were shot dead. It was the biggest assault on Kenya’s government in decades.

The government wanted to raise funds to pay off debt, but Kenyans said the bill caused more economic pain as millions struggle to get by. The chaos on Tuesday led the government to deploy the military, and Ruto called protesters’ actions “treasonous.”

The president now says the bill caused “widespread dissatisfaction” and he has listened and “conceded.” It’s a major setback for Ruto, who came to power vowing to help Kenyans cope with rising costs but has seen much of the country, led by youth, unite in opposition to his latest attempt at reforms.

“It is necessary for us to have a conversation as a nation on how to do we manage the affairs of the country together,” he said.

Kenyans faced the lingering smell of tear gas and military in the streets a day after the latest protests saw thousands storm parliament, an act of defiance that Ruto had called an “existential” threat. At least 22 people were killed, a human rights group said, and police were accused of some shooting deaths.

Ruto acknowledged deaths, calling it an “unfortunate situation,” and offered condolences. He said about 200 people had been wounded.

Nairobi has seen protests in the past, but activists and others warned the stakes were more dangerous. Ruto on Tuesday vowed to quash unrest “at whatever cost,” even as more protests were called at State House on Thursday.

“We are dealing with a new phenomenon and a group of people that is not predictable. If it would have been the normal demonstrations, I’d say it will fizzle out with time, but we don’t know whether these people will fear the army,” said Herman Manyora, an analyst and professor at the University of Nairobi.

He said the president missed an opportunity in his national address Tuesday night to adopt a more conciliatory approach.

Kenya’s High Court on Wednesday ordered the military deployment suspended after a challenge by the Kenya Law Society.

There were no reports of violence Wednesday, but there was fear. Civil society groups have reported abductions of people involved in recent protests and expect more to come. The High Court ordered police to release all people arrested in the protests. Ruto said those allegedly abducted had been released or processed in court.

Many young people who helped vote Ruto into power in 2022 with cheers for his promises of economic relief now object to the pain of reforms. Part of the parliament building burned Tuesday, and clashes occurred in several communities beyond the capital.

At least 22 people were killed, the Kenya National Human Rights Commission said. Commission chairperson Roseline Odede said 300 others were injured and 50 people were arrested.

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