• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Protests continue in Kenya over controversial tax bill

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Kenyans are preparing for further protests on Thursday against a proposed tax increase bill.

The Finance Bill 2024, introduced in May, sparked outrage due to a wide range of new taxes and levies.

Tensions flared on Tuesday as hundreds protested in Nairobi, the capital. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons, leading to the arrest of at least 283 people, including journalists.

Human rights groups have condemned the use of force and arbitrary arrests.

“Police were firing teargas at us and we had to run into a nearby café to seek shelter,” Stella Njoki, 22, a student who took part in the protests, told ABC News. “But it was imperative we made our voice heard as this is our future, our Kenya, and it is us who will be paying this price.”

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi on Tuesday issued a demonstration alert for U.S. citizens, saying events are “intended to be peaceful” but can “turn violent” at any moment. The embassy called on U.S. citizens to “remain vigilant” and avoid large gatherings.

The controversial bill, intended to raise revenue and revitalise the economy, was seen by many as unfairly burdening Kenyans already facing a high cost of living. The proposed July 1st implementation date added to the urgency of the protests.

Responding to public outcry, President Ruto’s office announced amendments to the bill on Tuesday evening.

Among amendments are the scrapping of a proposed 16 % VAT on bread, taxes on foreign exchange transactions and financial services, as well as a 2.5 % Motor Vehicle tax.

“We are going to end up with a product in Parliament that came from the Executive and has been interrogated by the Legislature. Through public participation, the people of Kenya have had a say,” the president said.

Despite these concessions, protests are expected to continue on Thursday. Kenyans remain concerned about the remaining tax increases and the overall impact on their finances.