Finance Bill to be withdrawn after deadly riots – Kenyan president

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Kenyan President William Ruto has said he will not sign a finance bill providing for major tax increases, which had caused deadly riots in the country. Announcing the decision on Wednesday, Ruto said the people’s voices had been heard.

Anti-tax protesters clashed with police in Kenya on Tuesday after lawmakers voted 195-106 to pass the government’s 2024 Finance Bill. The legislation included tax increases intended to generate $2.7 billion in revenue in line with International Monetary Fund (IMF) demands.

Protesters claimed that the tax increases in the bill would raise the cost of living.

“Having reflected on the continuing conversation around the Finance Bill 2024 and listening keenly to the people of Kenya, who have said loudly that they want nothing to do with the Finance Bill 2024… I concede. I will not sign the Finance Bill 2024. It will be fully withdrawn,” Ruto said as he addressed the nation from State House.

The Kenyan government has mobilized all available resources to prevent a repeat of the violence. The protesters were demanding Ruto’s resignation and threatening a “total shutdown.”

“About 214 Kenyans were involved in various escalations and many of them went to hospital,” the president said in response to questions.

Simon Kigondu, president of the Kenya Medical Association, reported that at least 13 people had lost their lives in Tuesday’s protests. He remarked that he had never witnessed “such level of violence against unarmed” people.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Amnesty Kenya reported that 31 people had been injured. 

Footage published on social media and by local news channels shows the governor’s office in Nairobi on fire, as well as a group of demonstrators damaging flags and furniture inside parliament, and attempting to break down the Senate chamber doors. 

Local media said security officers resorted to gunfire after tear gas and water cannons failed to disperse the crowd, which had torched at least one police vehicle and set fire to a section of the National Assembly building.

Ruto denounced the protests as “treasonous events” and vowed to crack down on “organized criminals” who “hijacked” the “legitimate” demonstrations and turned them into “violence and anarchy.” 

Meanwhile, Kenya’s National Assembly has authorized the deployment of soldiers to assist the police amid nationwide protests against the controversial tax hikes. Protesters have vowed to continue their demonstrations, with plans to take to the streets again on Thursday.