Home Africa Kenya Anti-Tax Protests: President Ruto says peaceful protest ‘infiltrated by criminals’

Kenya Anti-Tax Protests: President Ruto says peaceful protest ‘infiltrated by criminals’

The anti-tax protests in Kenya took a deadly turn on Tuesday as there was chaos outside the Kenyan Parliament building in Nairobi. At least 5 anti-tax protesters are dead and dozens injured. Ruto has called the violence an ‘unprecedented attack on Kenya’s democracy’. He claimed ‘dangerous criminals’ hijacked peaceful protests. “An otherwise legitimate expression of the fundamental rights and freedoms of assembly, demonstration, picketing, and petitioning of public authorities by a section of law-abiding citizens of the Republic of Kenya, was infiltrated and hijacked by a group of organized criminals,” said President William Ruto in his address to the nation. “Today’s events mark a critical turning point on how we respond to grave threats to our national security.”


Hundreds of protesters were agitating against the proposed tax hikes that were being debated inside the House. More voices are now demanding President Ruto’s resignation. Police in Nairobi opened fire and lobbed teargas shells at the demonstrators. Some anti-tax protesters in Kenya even managed to briefly enter the Parliament building and lawmakers were evacuated through a tunnel. A part of the building was also set on fire. Outside an unnamed protester said the protests would not stop. “(The) Government treats us like foreigners in this place. We are rejecting every single bill in that finance (bill). We are not asking for any amendment. They are afraid of us. We are going to take power with our own hands, and we are not afraid.”


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Ruto has vowed to use the full strength of the security forces to prevent any further unrest. The army has now been deployed along with the police to bring the security situation ‘under control’. The protests are no longer just limited to the capital city of Nairobi and have spread to other cities like Mombasa, Kisumu on Lake Victoria, Garissa in eastern Kenya and in Ruto’s hometown of Eldoret in western Kenya.


What is this controversial Finance Bill and why are Kenyans angry about it? The bill plans to raise an additional $ 2.7 billion in taxes and help cut down on debt. This in turn, protesters say, will add a massive burden of taxes on ordinary people who are already struggling to cope with the current cost of living. The initial bill proposed to increase sales tax on bread by 16 percent and add a 25 percent duty on cooking oil. The bill also planned to increase tax on the ownership of a new car. These proposals have now been scrapped but demonstrators say they want the entire Finance Bill to be withdrawn. The provisions that still exist in the bill, which were passed by Parliament, Kenyans say, will make healthcare unaffordable, and force them to pay a higher import tax.