HomeAttackKenya Protest: Dozens Injured As Death Toll Hits 13

Kenya Protest: Dozens Injured As Death Toll Hits 13

The anti-tax hike protest in Kenya on Tuesday has become violent prompting the police to open fire at demonstrators who ravaged the parliament leaving thirteen people dead, and others injured; an official from the main doctors’ association told AFP Wednesday.

The protest started as after the new finance bill which includes tax reforms and increases, that President William Ruto claims is necessary to offset the country’s heavy public debt was passed by the government.

Protesters claim the bill will increase the cost of living, which has already been rising, and that the government is corrupt.

The bill includes reforms such as: 5% tax increase on digital payments, 16% value-added tax (VAT) on bread, 25% excise duty on raw and refined vegetable cooking oil, an additional 2.75% income charge on salary earners enrolled in the country’s national medical insurance, An annual 2.5% tax on motor vehicles, new levies on monetised digital content creation.

Unfortunately, the unprecedented scenes left parts of parliament ablaze and gutted and injured scores of people on Tuesday. This has prompted President William Ruto’s government to deploy the military.

The intensity of the protest triggered more of youth-led rallies which began mostly peacefully last week, as thousands of demonstrators marched inside the capital Nairobi and across the country against the tax increases.

The protest later became a different scenario on Tuesday afternoon, as police officers fired live rounds on crowds that later ransacked the parliament complex.

In response to the situation, the Defence Minister Aden Bare Duale hours later announced that the government had deployed the army to support the police in tackling “the security emergency” in the country.

“So far, we have at least 13 people killed, but this is not the final number,” Simon Kigondu, president of the Kenya Medical Association said, adding that he had never seen “such level of violence against unarmed people.”

“Deaths, mayhem”, read the front-page headline on the Standard newspaper, while the Daily Nation described the situation as “Pandemonium”, saying: “The foundations of the country have been shaken to the core.”

Apart from those who lost their lives, others who got injured were taken to the hospital for treatment.

An official at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi said Wednesday that medics were treating “160 people… some of them with soft tissue injuries, some of them with bullet wounds”.

In a late-night press briefing, Ruto warned that his government would take a tough line against “violence and anarchy”, likening some of the demonstrators to “criminals”.

“It is not in order or even conceivable that criminals pretending to be peaceful protesters can reign terror against the people, their elected representatives and the institutions established under our constitution and expect to go scot-free,” he said.

The government has been taken by surprise by the intensity of opposition to its tax proposals –- mostly led by young, Gen-Z Kenyans — which culminated in the scenes at parliament that played out live on television.

Images shared on local TV stations after crowds broke through the barricades showed the building ransacked, with burnt furniture and smashed windows.

As police fired at the angry crowds, leaving several bodies strewn on the ground, protest organisers urged people to walk home together and “stay safe”.

A heavy police presence was deployed around parliament early on Wednesday, according to an AFP reporter, the smell of tear gas still in the air.

A policeman standing in front of the broken barricades to the complex told AFP he had watched the scenes unfold on TV.

“It was madness, we hope it will be calm today,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the rallies in various Kenyan cities had been largely peaceful.

However, tensions escalated in Nairobi later in the day, with some protesters hurling stones at police, who deployed tear gas and water cannons before firing live bullets.

AFP journalists saw three people bleeding heavily and lying motionless on the ground near parliament.

The unrest has alarmed the international community, with the White House appealing for calm and more than 10 Western nations — including Canada, Germany and Britain — saying they were “especially shocked by the scenes witnessed outside the Kenyan Parliament”.

UN chief Antonio Guterres and the head of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, have also expressed deep concern.

Veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, who heads the Azimio coalition, accused the government of unleashing “brute force on our country’s children”.

Rights watchdogs have also accused the authorities of abducting protesters.

The police have not responded to any AFP requests for comment.

According to AFP, Long-running grievances over the rising cost of living spiralled last week as lawmakers began debating proposed tax hikes in the 2024 finance bill.

The cash-strapped government says the increases are needed to service the country’s massive debt of some 10 trillion shillings ($78 billion), equal to roughly 70 per cent of Kenya’s GDP.

After rolling back some of the more controversial proposals — which would have affected bread purchases, car ownership, and financial and mobile services — the government now intends to increase fuel prices and export duties.

Kenya’s treasury has warned of a gaping budget shortfall of 200 billion shillings, following Ruto’s decision to roll back some of the tax hikes.

While Kenya is among East Africa’s most dynamic economies, a third of its 52 million population live in poverty.



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