Protesters Demand Scrapping of Finance Bill as Kenyan Government Backs Down on Some Tax Proposals


NAIROBI, June 20 (Reuters) – Riot police in Nairobi used tear gas and water cannons on Thursday to disperse thousands of demonstrators protesting against the government’s plan to raise $2.7 billion through additional taxes. Coordinated marches took place across Kenya, with protesters opposing the proposed finance bill.

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Late in the day, officers fired tear gas to disperse protesters marching near State House, President William Ruto’s office and residence. Earlier, police sprayed purple-coloured water to clear demonstrators from Nairobi’s central business district and block their path to parliament. Despite the police actions, the protests remained largely peaceful.

The Kenya Red Cross reported via X that it attended to 39 injured people, eight of whom were in critical condition. Police spokesperson Resila Onyango and Nairobi police commander Adamson Bungei did not respond to requests for comment.

Police Inspector General Japhet Koome stated that authorities would not allow disruptions to parliamentary proceedings or the occupation of critical government infrastructure.

Protesters argue that the proposed tax increases, aimed at reducing the budget deficit, will harm the economy and increase the cost of living for Kenyans already struggling financially. “Right now we are not paying taxes, but we are fighting for our future. We need young people to fight for our future rights,” said Theru Nderitu, a student participating in the protest.

In response to public outcry, the government has agreed to scrap some proposed taxes. A parliamentary panel recommended on Tuesday that new taxes on car ownership, bread, cooking oil, and financial transactions be removed. The panel also suggested increasing a fuel tax for road maintenance.

President Ruto, elected almost two years ago on a platform to support Kenya’s working poor, has faced repeated anti-tax protests. He defended the tax increases as necessary to reduce reliance on borrowing but agreed with the parliamentary panel’s recommendations to scrap some of the proposals.

Elsewhere on Thursday, peaceful demonstrations occurred in towns such as Nyeri, Nakuru, Eldoret, Isiolo, Mombasa, and Kisumu, with protesters calling for lawmakers to drop the bill and chanting slogans like “Ruto must go.” Police dispersed protesters in Eldoret in the afternoon.

The International Monetary Fund has urged the Kenyan government to increase revenues in its 2024/25 budget to reduce state borrowing. Lawmakers debated the bill on Thursday in its second reading. While Ruto has a majority in parliament, some allied lawmakers have expressed reservations about the bill. The parliament’s majority leader, Kimani Ichung’wah, announced that lawmakers would vote on the proposed changes to the bill on Tuesday.

Ndindi Nyoro, chairperson of the parliament’s budget committee, noted that the Finance Ministry indicated that scrapping some proposed tax hikes would result in a revenue shortfall of 200 billion Kenyan shillings ($1.56 billion) in the 2024/25 budget, necessitating equivalent spending cuts.

($1 = 128.0000 Kenyan shillings)

By Naija247news
By Naija247news
Naija247news is an investigative news platform that tracks news on Nigerian Economy, Business, Politics, Financial and Africa and Global Economy.

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