Local News

Praised in the US, loathed in Kenya: Ruto deploys army to quell protests

NAIROBI —Kenya’s President, William Ruto, has become unpopular at home due to tax increases that have outraged the middle class, despite being praised in Washington at a recent state dinner held by President Biden. As protests intensified on Tuesday, his ruling party pushed through a new tax law.

According to human rights groups, at least five people were murdered during street protests over a new tax proposal in Kenya’s capital on Tuesday as police opened fire on protestors after thousands poured into Kenya’s Parliament and set it on fire.

Also Read: Pray for Kenya: Prophet Orasi foresees more deaths

According to a post on X, Amnesty Kenya reported 31 injuries, including 13 from live bullets, rubber bullets, and rocket canisters, with 11 minor injuries. Five persons were killed while treating the injured.

At 3 p.m., a crowd of protesters who appeared to be unarmed breached Parliament buildings in Nairobi’s city center after entering the heavily fortified compound. Gunshots could be heard from Parliament. In the streets, police beat protesters and fired tear gas at them.

Ruto in a speech late Tuesday evening called the protests treasonous.

“What we are seeing is young protesters who do not need to be led by anyone, coming out in the streets to say that they are tired,” said George Mwangi, 32, a taxi driver in Nairobi. “In every generation, there comes a time when the people decide enough is enough, and this is one of those moments,” he said.

Mwangi stayed out of the Nairobi central business district Tuesday morning, not sure how the protests would unfold. Most Kenyan schools had closed for their midterm break a day earlier, with some citing security concerns in memos sent to parents in anticipation of the protests.

Most businesses in Nairobi’s central business district were closed early Tuesday as crowds chanted, “Ruto must go,” while some sang the national anthem. Large trucks filled with armed security personnel patrolled the city. There was heavy security on roads leading to the president’s official residence.

As the day progressed, more protesters came out to march. “We are ready to die for this country,” one man declared while standing on top of a police truck and holding a placard. When he was arrested, police shot tear gas to disperse the crowd that had gathered in the street.

The African Union, a regional bloc of 55 member states, said in a statement Tuesday that it is monitoring the protests and “urges all stakeholders to exercise calm and refrain from further violence.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council said Tuesday: “The United States is closely monitoring the situation in Nairobi. We condemn violence in all its forms and urge calm.”

Among the clauses in the tax legislation are a proposal to increase tax income earned from digital platforms, a tax on food products such as bread and oil, and taxes on contributions to social security funds. The bill also initially proposed to introduce a motor vehicle tax at the rate of 2.5 percent of the value of the vehicle owned, and an environment tax on imported manufactured goods such as menstrual pads, diapers and phones.

Clauses removed from the proposed legislation, the statement said, included a 16 percent value-added tax on bread, taxes on financial services, the motor vehicle tax, increases in mobile money transfer fees and taxes on products such as vegetable oil. Taxes on some social security programs such as Social Health Insurance were also scrapped, the statement said.

The deaths Tuesday brought renewed attention to allegations of human rights violations on the same day that hundreds of Kenyan police officers deployed to Haiti in a U.S.-sponsored peacekeeping mission.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button