Kenya Erupts in Protests Over Tax Hike Plan

Kenya witnessed violent nationwide protests against a proposed $2.7 billion tax increase, resulting in 200 injuries and over 100 arrests. Protesters demand the government abandon the finance bill, which is believed to worsen living conditions. Despite unrest, the bill progresses in parliament, with a vote scheduled next week.

Reuters | Updated: 21-06-2024 12:34 IST | Created: 21-06-2024 12:34 IST
Kenya Erupts in Protests Over Tax Hike Plan
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At least 200 people were injured and more than 100 arrested across Kenya in Thursday's nationwide protests against government plans to raise $2.7 billion in additional taxes, an alliance of rights groups said.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters in the capital Nairobi, the five rights groups, which include Amnesty International and the Kenya Medical Association, said in a joint statement late on Thursday. The presence of spent cartridges implied the use of live rounds, they said.

An unidentified person died at Bliss Hospital from a gunshot wound to his thigh sustained during the protest, the Daily Nation newspaper reported. A 29-year-old man died during treatment to a wound on his thigh at the same hospital on Thursday night, according to a police report seen by Reuters. The report did not state how he was injured, but he was believed to be the same person cited by the newspaper.

Nairobi county police commander Adamson Bungei did not answer phone calls. "We commend the several thousands of protesters, many of whom are youthful, for picketing peacefully (and) exhibiting restraint and decorum despite provocation by police," the group said.

Protesters want the government to completely abandon the finance bill, saying it will choke the economy and raise the cost of living for Kenyans who are already struggling to make ends meet. The International Monetary Fund, however, says that the government needs to increase revenues to reduce the budget deficit and state borrowing.

Earlier this week the government softened its position a little, with President William Ruto endorsing recommendations to scrap some of the new levies, including on car ownership, bread, cooking oil and financial transactions. Despite the widespread demonstrations, which broke out in 19 of Kenya's 47 counties, lawmakers passed the finance bill in its second reading on Thursday, moving the contested tax proposals to their next stage for approval.

Lawmakers are expected to meet on Tuesday to vote on the proposed changes to the bill, which parliament's budget committee says would blow a 200 billion Kenyan shillings ($1.56 billion) hole in the 2024/25 budget, and compel the government to make spending cuts.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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