Kenya’s anti-tax demos spread across the country as protests unveil youth verve that could change country’s future politics

By Duncan Inyangala-Kericho, Kenya, June 25- Protests against against Kenya’s new Finance Bill  in Kenya turned violent on Tuesday, with police firing tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds in the capital city of Nairobi and all major towns across the country with demonstrators hurling stones at security forces, witnesses said.

Riot police sealed off the parliament, where lawmakers were debating the tax bill, and State House, site of the president’s office and residence as Kenyans demanded total rejection of President William Ruto’s proposed tax measures they say are “punitive”.

Protestors are demanding the government to drop the Finance Bill 2024 in its entirety, despite the amendments made to drop some of the most contentious proposals. The protesters are clashing with police, who are attempting to push them back with water cannons and teargas, but the demonstrators are not backing down.

Live images from Parliament show frantic scenes outside the gates as police mobilise to counter the protesters. The protesters had announced their intention to occupy Parliament.

M-News Africa  understands that the Finance Bill 2024 has now been passed. The bill passed with 195 legislators voting Yes and 106 voting No. There were 3 spoilt votes.

Police in Kisumu city are having a hard time containing the mostly youthful demonstrators. Businesses have remained closed as crowds engaged the officers in running battles. The police then reportedly started firing in the air and at the protesters. The protestors were seen carrying a rulling party , UDA branded coffin. They say the coffin is a symbol of lack of confidence in Ruto’s government.

“We are coming to reject the taxes that are being imposed… We had been given promises that within two years we would see change, but what change are we seeing?” 26-year-old Kennedy Ojwang  told Mnews Africa.

Elsewhere, Questions and concerns have been raised over the conduct of police officers after they harassed and arrested both journalists and peaceful protesters.   

According to Article 37 of the constitution, “Every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities.” 

Amnesty International is reporting that 12 activists have so far been abducted by state agencies. Netizens have been pushing hashtags on X (twitter) to pressure the government to release the abducted Kenyans.

The government, which has rowed back on some of the most controversial measures, says new taxes are needed to fund spending programmes and lessen the debt burden. It is worthy to note that the Bill was only amended to remove the proposed 16 per cent VAT on bread, transportation of sugar, financial services, foreign exchange transactions as well as the 2.5 per cent Motor Vehicle Tax.

Police officers have been deployed to protect various key government installations including parliament. The Law Society of Kenya, Amnesty International, and other groups have urged the National Police Service to desist from using excessive force, intimidation, and arbitrary and unlawful arrests of Kenyans.

The international NGO is also calling for the government of Kenya to respect the right of Kenyans to protest as enshrined in the constitution. 

The protests, which started last Tuesday, have been led by young Kenyans dubbed “Gen- Z” and have been largely peaceful. As witnessed in Nairobi and other cities, the majority of the protestors in the Rift Valley region, the Generation Zs, with a few millennials have joined them in the demos that appeared to be very organised.

Waving protest placards and chanting anti-Finance Bill, anti-Ruto, anti-government tunes, the protesters had initially organised themselves into about four groups of several hundred before converging at different spots on the outskirts of the towns.

The messages were strong: Ruto Must Go! Occupy Eldoret! Reject Finance Bill!

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M-News Africa is an online magazine that reports trending issues, politics, tourism, investigative reporting, Environmental, Marine Ecosystem, Human Rights, Human Interest and other cross-cutting issues. Contact us: +231 775 552 553; editor@mnewsafrica.com; info@mnewsafrica.com; Carey and Center Streets Intersection, Monrovia