Kenyan Police Erect Roadblocks as Protests Continue Despite Withdrawal of Tax Bill


NAIROBI, June 27 (Reuters) – On Thursday, Kenyan police established roadblocks on streets leading to the presidential palace as some protesters vowed to “occupy State House” despite President William Ruto’s recent withdrawal of a controversial finance bill. The bill, which had sparked a week of demonstrations, was pulled back a day after clashes resulted in at least 23 deaths and the storming and burning of parliament.

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President Ruto faces the most significant crisis of his two-year presidency as the youth-led protest movement has rapidly grown from online complaints about tax hikes into large-scale rallies demanding political change. However, without a formal leadership structure, protest supporters are divided on how to proceed.

“Let’s not be foolish as we fight for a better Kenya,” said Boniface Mwangi, a prominent social justice activist, in an Instagram post. While supporting the protests, Mwangi opposed calls to invade State House, warning it could provoke more violence and justify a crackdown.

In Nairobi, police and soldiers patrolled the streets, blocking access to State House. Tear gas was used to disperse a few dozen people in the city center, but the crowds were much smaller than those in Tuesday’s mass protests. Army vehicles were seen on the streets as the military supported the police.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Mombasa and Kisumu, with local television footage showing mostly peaceful gatherings. Despite the finance bill’s withdrawal, some protest supporters continued to demand Ruto’s resignation.

“Right now, it’s not just about the finance bill but about ,” said political activist Davis Tafari. “We have to ensure that Ruto and his MPs resign and call for fresh elections … We occupy State House for dignity and justice.” Eli Owuor from Kibera, a traditional protest hotspot, echoed this sentiment, expressing readiness to march on State House.

President Ruto defended the tax hikes in a Wednesday speech, citing the need to address Kenya’s high debt. He acknowledged public rejection of the finance bill and promised to initiate dialogue with the youth and implement austerity measures, starting with cuts to the presidency’s budget.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has urged the Kenyan government to cut its deficit for more funding, expressed deep concern over the recent violence. “Our main goal in supporting Kenya is to help it overcome the difficult economic challenges it faces and improve its economic prospects and the well-being of its people,” the IMF stated.

Ratings agency Moody’s warned that shifting focus to spending cuts instead of revenue increases would complicate future IMF funding and slow fiscal consolidation. Analysts at JPMorgan maintained their forecast for a deficit of 4.5% of GDP in FY2024/2025 but noted potential revisions due to recent developments. They also suggested the Central Bank of Kenya might delay cutting rates until the year’s final quarter.

The protests, unlike previous demonstrations often led by political figures and mobilized based on ethnicity, have a broad appeal to those frustrated by rising living costs and corruption. Demonstrations occurred in most of Kenya’s 47 counties, including Ruto’s hometown of Eldoret. Nationwide, at least 23 people were killed, and 30 were treated for bullet wounds, with scores injured, according to the Kenya Medical Association.

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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