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Kenyan Protests

Kenyan police fire tear gas at protesters marching against finance bill

Kenyan police fire tear gas at protesters marching against finance bill
Kenya's President William Ruto at his inauguration ceremony in Nairobi on 13 September 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Daniel Irungu)

Kenyan police fired tear gas at hundreds of people protesting near parliament on Tuesday against a proposed finance bill that would hike taxes on fuel and housing.

President William Ruto, who won elections in August on a platform of helping the poor, is under pressure to raise revenues in East Africa’s economic powerhouse in the face of rising government debt repayments.

But his proposals have drawn sharp criticism from civil servants and political opponents, who say that the cost of living is already too high.

Police fired tear gas to disperse about 500 protesters who marched to parliament to present a petition against the bill, a Reuters witness said.

Eleven protesters were seen being detained by police. In downtown Nairobi, plain-clothed police officers were seen carrying an activist who held a placard that read: “Colonialism never really ended.”

Ruto has defended the bill, saying its provisions are needed to ensure financial stability and create jobs for young people by building new houses financed through a housing levy. The legislation, which would also hike taxes on digital content, is expected to be voted on next week.

The opposition Azimio La Umoja (Declaration of Unity) party, which has since March led protests against the government over the high cost of living and alleged fraud in last year’s election, has said the bill would take the country back to 1980s, when the economy started to deteriorate.

Last week, the opposition suspended bipartisan talks in parliament aimed at ending their row with the government. Their leader Raila Odinga has threatened to hold more protests.

Labour unions, including one representing health workers, also protested against the bill last week.

(Reporting by Thomas Mukoya and Duncan Miriri; Writing by Bhargav Acharya; Editing by Alex Richardson and Andrew Heavens)

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