Kenya protesters call for President Ruto’s removal after tax bill dropped

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Police in Nairobi fired tear gas and rubber bullets to scatter demonstrators who gathered for another day of protests triggered by a controversial tax bill aimed at increasing taxes on essential goods.

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On Thursday, hundreds of people took to the streets demanding President William Ruto’s resignation, a day after he yielded to pressure from young protesters and withdrew the highly unpopular tax hike bill.

As protesters marched towards Nairobi’s central business district, soldiers were deployed and police in riot gear blocked roads leading to Ruto’s office at State House and Parliament. Compared to previous days, turnout was lower following violent clashes that resulted in more than 20 deaths, according to human rights groups.

The Kenya National Commission for Human Rights (KNCHR) reported on social media that live fire had been used against civilian protesters across the country, leading to fatalities, though specific locations were not detailed.

In Mombasa and Kisumu, hundreds more gathered, some setting fires and blocking roads, as protests also occurred in Kisii and Migori. In Homa Bay Town, seven individuals sustained gunshot wounds during protests and were rushed to a local hospital, according to Citizen TV.

The youth-led protests, which began last week, caught authorities off-guard, prompting a fluctuating response from Ruto’s government ranging from firm measures to calls for dialogue.

On Wednesday, President Ruto declined to sign the tax changes into law and withdrew the bill, stating, “The people have spoken,” and expressing intent to engage with the youth.

However, protesters criticized the reversal as too little, too late, vowing to continue demonstrations in honor of those killed. Chants of “Ruto must go!” echoed throughout Nairobi, reflecting widespread discontent with current leadership.

Amid an “ebb and flow” of tensions on Thursday, Al Jazeera’s reporting from Nairobi highlighted ongoing clashes between police and protesters, with demands for political change and accountability resonating strongly among Kenya’s youth.

Kasmuel McOure, a prominent Kenyan youth leader, emphasized the deep-seated dissatisfaction among the country’s young population, underscoring ongoing protests until substantive reforms are achieved.

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