Reports Of Live Fire As Kenyan Police Crack Down On Tax Bill Protests

People are angry after lawmakers and the government moved ahead with raising taxes again.

Police in Kenya are reported to have fired live rounds along with rubber bullets and tear gas as they cracked down on nationwide protests.

Thousands poured into the streets on Tuesday to take part in youth-led rallies against a government bill to hike taxes. However, despite the protests and a general strike, Kenya’s Parliament passed a second reading of the contentious finance legislation as police battled the crowds.

Riot police and plainclothes officers used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon against protesters, some of whom threw stones.

The country is seeing the third round of protests. Two people were killed last week during protests – one hit by a gunshot and another by a tear gas canister.

Unconfirmed reports from the Reuters and The Associated Press news agencies indicated that police also fired live rounds on Tuesday as protesters tried to approach the parliament building.

Journalist Chris Samba claimed on X that as many as five people had been shot by police.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission shared a video of officers shooting at protesters.

KHRC has witnessed police firing their guns when protesters marched along City Hall Way. KHRC warns police against shooting protesters.
To President @WilliamsRuto: the world is watching your descent into tyranny! Your regime’s actions is an assult on democracy. All those involved… pic.twitter.com/wDBqo0az5e

— KHRC (@thekhrc) June 25, 2024

Addressing President William Ruto, the commission wrote on X: “The world is watching your descent into tyranny! Your regime’s actions is an assault on democracy. All those involved in the shooting – actively or passively – must be held to account.”

‘Spontaneous’

The protests launched last week, largely led by young activists, as the tax hikes – the second in as many years sought by Ruto’s government – stirred anger over the price rises they would incur on basics such as diapers and sanitary towels.

Police stand during a demonstration against Kenya’s finance bill in Nairobi, Kenya, June 25, 2024 [Monicah Mwangi/Reuters]

Reporting from the capital, Nairobi, Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi noted that the protests are not politically led. “These are unprecedented protests, they’re spontaneous,” he said.

“We’ve seen that the majority of the people who are out here are teens or in their early 20s. We’ve been speaking to them and they say what they are fighting for is their future,” he continued. “They say that they are here to fight corruption and they want freedom.”

Once the finance bill is ratified by Parliament, President Ruto will have 14 days to sign it into law. Last year, when there was a similar tax hike, he had signed it immediately.

Despite the lack of political strategy, Kenyan forces have clamped down on any attempt to approach the country’s institutions.

Armed security forces, backed by armoured vehicles, formed multiple layers of protection around the parliament building on Tuesday.

Reporting from the port city of Kisumu, Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi said protesters were trying to reach State House, the president’s home.

Amid calls by some protesters for Ruto to resign, police units secured the presidential building and blocked the demonstrators.

On Sunday, Ruto had praised protesters for demonstrating peacefully, promising that the government would engage with them on the way forward.

But amendments to the bill, which removed some of the more stringent proposals, like a bread tax, have failed to assuage protesters.

“Everyone is coming out because we’re tired, people are tired and unemployed and they keep pushing these punitive taxes,” 28-year-old protester Hanifa Farsafi told Al Jazeera.

Source: Al Jazeera

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