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Demonstrators in Kenya Surround Parliament as Protests Against New Tax Hikes Turn Violent

Violence erupted during a protest in Kenya over proposed tax laws on Tuesday, with clashes between police and demonstrators at the Parliamentary grounds in Nairobi.

Protests outside the Kenyan parliamentary building in Nairobi escalated into violence and gunfire on Tuesday as lawmakers discussed a bill to increase taxes.

The violence started when demonstrators entered the parliamentary grounds.

As details of the unrest continue to unfold, the Kenya Medical Association and Amnesty International’s Kenya branch, among other groups, reported that police used live ammunition and rubber bullets against demonstrators. The organizations reported that 13 people were hit by live bullets, resulting in five deaths, while four were injured by rubber bullets and three by other crowd-control weapons. They also claimed that 21 individuals were detained by both uniformed and plainclothes officers in the past day as protests intensified against the new tax laws.

The demonstrations were sparked by lawmakers considering provisions in the country’s 2024 Finance Bill that would increase taxes on financial transactions, foreign remittances, and consumer goods like bread, vegetable oil, and sugar. Proposed taxes on motor vehicles and an “eco levy” on items such as sanitary pads and diapers were also under discussion.

Members of Kenya’s National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, voted against tax hikes on diapers, sanitary pads, bread, diaspora remittances, and excluded motorcycle, tuk-tuk, and bicycle tires from the “eco levy.” The National Assembly passed this year’s finance bill with a vote of 195 to 106 on Tuesday amidst the violent protests.
Kenyan President William Ruto addressed the events around the parliamentary compound on Tuesday, condemning the actions of certain demonstrators.

“Today Kenya experienced an unprecedented attack on its democracy, rule of law, and the integrity of its constitutional institutions,” Mr. Ruto stated. He further expressed concerns about losses of life, property damage, and disruptions to Kenyan sovereignty due to the clashes.

Mr. Ruto pledged a comprehensive response to address the day’s events.

Aden Duale, the cabinet secretary for Kenya’s Ministry of Defense, also announced that Kenya’s military had been mobilized to support the police response to ongoing violent protests.

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, along with other diplomatic missions, issued a joint statement expressing concern over the protests and the security measures taken in response.

The statement emphasized the importance of respecting the right to peaceful protest and called for all parties to exercise restraint and seek peaceful resolutions through dialogue.

Reuters contributed to this article.

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