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Kenya. Mass protests in Nairobi. President withdraws budget bill, but unrest continues

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On Thursday, Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, was once again gripped by mass protests in recent days. There were clashes with the police, who used tear gas against the demonstrators. A few days ago, officers shot at protesters with live ammunition, killing over 20 people. The original flashpoint was the controversial budget bill, which was supposed to raise taxes in the country. The protests did not stop even though the country's president announced that he would not sign the bill.

On Tuesday in Nairobi, the capital Kenya, mass protests broke out against government plans to introduce new taxes. Thousands of demonstrators stormed the parliament premises, part of the building was set on fire, and deputies fled. Initially, the police tried to disperse the crowd using tear gas and water cannons, but when this was unsuccessful, they opened fire on the demonstrators. At least 23 people were killed by police bullets in the riots and 30 suffered gunshot wounds.

The bill introducing the new taxes was passed by the Kenyan parliament and sent to the president. Through the reform, the government wanted to raise an additional $2.7 billion in tax revenues to reduce budget deficit. This is demanded by the International Monetary Fund, which makes its support for Kenya contingent on meeting this condition.

Nairobi protestsReuters

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The president will not sign the bill. “Dialogue with the nation is necessary”

Under the pressure of social unrest, Kenyan President William Ruto announced on Wednesday the withdrawal of the draft budget for 2024-2025, which provides for tax increases.

“After listening carefully to the people of Kenya who have said loudly and clearly that they want nothing to do with the Budget Bill, I bow my head to them and will not sign the Budget Bill which will therefore be withdrawn,” Ruto said in a speech.

– Since we got rid of the new law, dialogue with the nation about the future is necessary. (…) How can we manage our debt situation together (…). I will propose cooperation to young people, our sons and our daughters, announced the president.

Despite the president's decision, a new wave of demonstrations swept across the country on Thursday.

Kenya protests 27.06.2024DANIEL IRUNGU/PAP

Kenya protests 27/06/2024DANIEL IRUNGU/PAP

The protests continue. “It's about something more”

A “Million Man March” was organized in Nairobi, with demonstrators calling for the blocking of roads leading to the capital, while others threatened to occupy the House of Representatives, the president's office and his official residence – CNN reports.

Kenya protests 27/06/2024DANIEL IRUNGU/PAP

Security forces set up roadblocks on roads leading to the parliament, and police presence was increased in other parts of the city. The officers used tear gas against protesters.

Kenya protests 27.06.2024DANIEL IRUNGU/PAP

– This is about more than just the budget bill, one of the protesters told CNN. – They are killing us young people, for what? We come in peace, she argued.

CNN notes that the protesters have mixed demands, with some calling on President Ruto to step down, others demanding justice for the slain protesters and demanding the removal of politicians who voted for the controversial budget bill. Civil society groups such as the Law Society of Kenya are calling for the removal of the Kenyan Inspector General of Police and the Nairobi regional police commander, accusing police officers of firing live ammunition at protesters.

Kenya protests 27.06.2024DANIEL IRUNGU/PAP

Kenya, East Africa's dominant economy, is struggling with rising living costs, including the price of food and other basic goods. The country is also deeply indebted to foreign and local creditors, spending a significant portion of its GDP on debt repayments.

Main image source: DANIEL IRUNGU/PAP

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