• Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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Kenyan protesters overrun parliament as lawmakers pass controversial tax bill

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Sections of Kenya’s parliament were on fire on Tuesday as protesters overwhelmed security officers and stormed the premises where lawmakers had just passed the controversial Finance Bill seeking to introduce new taxes.

In the video sighted by BusinessDay, thousands of young protesters were seen inside the parliament, destroying flags and furniture in the building.

According to reports, the demonstrators also set ablaze some sections of the parliament forcing security agents to open fire on them.

Five persons reportedly died in the process, while several others were injured.

Kenyans across the country erupted in protests last week against the government’s new finance bill, which proposes tax increases. The bill passed through Parliament and now awaits the President’s signature.

Citizens are furious about rising taxes in a nation already grappling with a severe cost-of-living crisis. Many protesters have called for President William Ruto’s resignation. 

Ruto, elected two years ago on promises to champion the working class, faces a tough balancing act. 

The International Monetary Fund urged deficit reduction for further funding, while Kenyans struggle under the weight of the pandemic, the Ukraine war, droughts, and a weakened currency.

The finance bill aims to raise an additional $2.7 billion to ease the national debt burden, with interest payments alone consuming a staggering 37% of annual revenue. 

Though the government conceded by scrapping proposed taxes on essential items, it wasn’t enough to appease the public.

Demonstrations began peacefully in Nairobi but escalated as crowds grew. Police used tear gas to disperse protesters throwing stones in the capital’s central business district and Kibera slums. Similar clashes erupted in Ruto’s hometown Eldoret, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Garissa.

Chants of “Ruto must go” and “All can be possible without Ruto” filled the air. Protests that initially focused on the bill have transformed into a broader call for the President’s removal. 

The opposition boycotted the parliamentary vote, shouting disapproval as the bill passed through its second reading.

While Ruto praised initial peaceful protests and promised engagement with the public, the situation remains volatile. 

The nation waits to see if the President will sign the bill and how he will address the public’s outrage.