Police fired on protesters trying to storm Kenya’s legislature on Tuesday (25), and at least five protesters were shot dead, while sections of the parliament building were set ablaze as lawmakers inside approved a bill to raise taxes.

In chaotic scenes, protesters overpowered police and drove them away in an attempt to storm the Parliament complex, with Citizen TV reporting that protesters managed to enter the Senate chamber. Police opened fire after tear gas and water cannon failed to disperse the crowd.

A Reuters journalist counted the bodies of at least five protesters outside Parliament. A paramedic, Vivian Achista, said at least 10 people were shot dead. Another paramedic, Richard Ngumo, said more than 50 people were injured by gunfire. He was transporting two injured protesters to an ambulance in front of Parliament.

“We want to close Parliament and all deputies should resign,” protester Davis Tafari, who was trying to enter Parliament, told Reuters. “We will have a new government.”

Kenyan activist Auma Obama, half-sister of former US President Barack Obama, was among protesters attacked with tear gas during the demonstrations, a CNN interview showed. Police finally managed to clear the protesters from the building amid clouds of tear gas and the sound of gunfire. Lawmakers were evacuated through underground tunnels, local media reported.

In Washington, the White House said the United States was closely monitoring the situation in Nairobi and calling for calm. Ambassadors and high commissioners from countries including the UK, US and Germany said in a joint statement that they were deeply concerned about the violence they witnessed during recent anti-tax protests and called for restraint on all sides.

Internet services across the East African country suffered severe disruptions during the police crackdown, internet monitor Netblocks said. Kenya’s main network operator, Safaricom, said the outages affected two of its undersea cables, but the root cause of the disruptions remained unclear.

Protests and clashes also took place in several other cities and towns across Kenya, with many calling for President William Ruto to step down as well as voicing their opposition to tax increases. Parliament approved the finance bill, passing it on for a third reading by lawmakers. The next step is for the legislation to be sent to the president for signature. He can return it to Parliament if he has any objections.

Ruto won election nearly two years ago on a platform of championing Kenya’s working poor, but has been caught between competing demands from creditors such as the International Monetary Fund, which has urged the government to reduce deficits to secure more financing, and a hard-pressed public.

Kenyans have been struggling to cope with multiple economic shocks caused by the persistent impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, two consecutive years of drought and a devalued currency. The finance bill aims to raise an additional $2.7 billion in taxes as part of an effort to ease Kenya’s heavy debt burden, with interest payments alone consuming 37% of annual revenues.

“Ruto must go, Ruto must resign, he must do the honorable thing,” opposition leader Eugene Wamalwa said in a televised statement.

Protesters attempt to obstruct a police vehicle as police use water cannons to disperse protesters during a demonstration against Kenya’s proposed Finance Bill 2024/2025. Photo: Reuters.

Another opposition leader, Raila Odinga, called for the immediate withdrawal of the financial law to pave the way for dialogue. “I am disturbed by the killings, arrests, detentions and surveillance perpetrated by police on boys and girls who only seek to be heard about fiscal policies that are stealing both their present and their future,” he said in a statement.

The government has already made some concessions, promising to eliminate proposed new taxes on bread, cooking oil, car ownership and financial transactions. But this was not enough to satisfy the protesters.

Tuesday’s protests began with a festival atmosphere, but as crowds grew, police fired tear gas in Nairobi’s Central Business District and the poor Kibera neighborhood. Protesters ducked for cover and threw rocks at police lines.

Police also fired tear gas in Ruto’s hometown of Eldoret in western Kenya, where crowds of protesters filled the streets and many businesses were closed for fear of violence.

Further clashes broke out in the coastal city of Mombasa and demonstrations were held in Kisumu on Lake Victoria and in Garissa in eastern Kenya, where police blocked the main road to the nearby port of Kismayu in Somalia.

In Nairobi, people chanted “Ruto must go” and crowds chanted in Swahili: “Anything can be possible without Ruto.” Music blared from loudspeakers and protesters waved Kenyan flags and blew whistles just hours before the violence escalated.

Police did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.


Thousands of people took to the streets of Nairobi and several other cities during two days of protests last week, as a youth-led online movement gained momentum.

Protests in Kenya have generally been called by political leaders who have been receptive to negotiated settlements, but young Kenyans in the current demonstrations have no official leader and have become increasingly bold in their demands.

While protesters initially focused on the finance bill, their demands broadened to include calling for Ruto’s resignation.

The opposition refused to participate in the vote in parliament, shouting “reject, reject” as the chamber considered the items one by one. The project will then be submitted to a third and final vote by acclamation in the Chamber plenary.

The finance ministry says the changes would blow a 200 billion Kenyan shilling ($1.56 billion) hole in the 2024/25 budget and force the government to cut spending or raise taxes in other areas.

Amid growing civil unrest, Kenya’s dollar sovereign bonds fell on Tuesday afternoon, data from Tradeweb showed. The 2034 maturity fell the most, trading 0.6 cents lower at 74.7 cents.

“They are budgeting for corruption,” said protester Hussein Ali, 18. “We will not give in. It is the government that will back down. Not us.”

With information from Reuters.

Source: https://www.ocafezinho.com/2024/06/25/manifestantes-tentam-invadir-o-parlamento-do-quenia-entenda/

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