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Anti-government protests grip Kenya

Clashes between Kenyan police and protesters against tax hikes have claimed the lives of six individuals.

Nairobi, 13 July, 2023 (GNP): Kenya is witnessing a tumultuous period as deadly anti-government protests have erupted in major cities, including Nairobi, causing widespread disruptions and bringing businesses to a standstill. The clashes between Kenyan police and demonstrators, who are protesting against tax hikes, have tragically claimed the lives of six individuals, with several others injured and hospitalized, the sources said.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has called for civil disobedience and weekly nationwide protests against President William Ruto’s government, specifically targeting recent tax increases and the rising cost of living.

While Ruto’s administration contends that the tax hikes are necessary to address growing debt repayments and create job opportunities, opposition groups argue that these measures will only intensify the hardships faced by Kenyans, who are already grappling with soaring prices of essential commodities.

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Protests on Wednesday witnessed stone-throwing demonstrators clashing with police in various cities and towns across the country. Tear gas was fired to disperse the protests, leading to confrontations on the expressway connecting Nairobi to its international airport. The intensity of the clashes was particularly high, with protesters resorting to setting fires and using flower boxes as barricades.

Tragically, two protesters were shot dead by the police in an attempt to repel the crowd advancing down the main expressway, officers said. At least nine people were killed in the nationwide protests, according to the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

President William Ruto, who was elected last August on a platform aimed at assisting Kenya’s working poor, is now facing criticism for signing tax hikes that opponents believe will exacerbate the plight of ordinary citizens already struggling to afford basic commodities.

The government has defended the tax hikes, including a doubling of the fuel tax and the imposition of a 1.5% levy for affordable housing, citing the need to address mounting debt and promote job creation.

However, the law has been suspended by Kenya’s High Court over constitutional concerns. The situation remains tense as the government faces legal challenges against the implementation of the new taxes.

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The recent violence and destruction have prompted accusations from Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki, who questioned the demonstrators of engaging in widespread violence, looting, and destruction of private and public property.

“The authors of today’s orgy of violence and destruction took (their) cue from a small group of former and current politicians coalescing around Mr. Raila Odinga,” Kindiki said.

In remarks on Wednesday, Odinga expressed condemnation of the police response and cancelled a planned rally in Nairobi, citing concerns about the safety of his supporters and the potential for further injuries and loss of lives.