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Kenyans protest proposed tax hike


Hundreds of Kenyans flocked to the center of the capital, Nairobi, on Tuesday to protest against a proposed finance bill that many fear will significantly increase their already high cost of living by imposing widespread new taxes and raising other levies on a wide range of goods and services.

Protesters wearing black T-shirts and blowing whistles and vuvuzelas gathered near parliament, adding to online anger that has been spread through hashtags and videos on TikTok. Lawmakers have also been flooded with calls and text messages asking them to reject the bill.

The protest began just after noon local time, with police immediately using tear gas and water cannon. At least nine people were observed being detained near parliament and put into police cars, with activists and lawyer explain many more exist Police detentionPolice have not yet released a statement on the number of arrests.

Shops in the central business district were closed as police chased protesters and sirens blared in the streets.

The uproar over the bill, which is aimed at raising taxes, is some of the strongest opposition the government has ever faced. President William Rutohe ran on a platform of Improve the living standards of the poor In 2022 when he is elected.

The protests came just weeks after Ruto State visit to the United Stateshe signed Multiple investment and development transactions The Biden administration’s goal is to reduce debt and stimulate long-term growth.

Anger over Kenya’s tax measures shows Wider challenges facing African economiesUnemployment and rising food and fuel prices have made life increasingly difficult for many people, especially young people.

“People’s frustration has been building up and now it’s finally bursting out,” said Hanifa Adan, a community worker and one of the organizers of the protest.

“We are calling and texting our legislators to tell them that your loyalty lies with us, the voters, and we oppose this bill,” she said. Post on social media Police arrested her before the protest began on Tuesday.

The bill, first introduced to parliament last month, introduces new taxes and levies that will raise the price of goods such as bread, diapers and cars. It also increases import duties on goods, hikes taxes on phone and internet data and remittance fees charged by banks and other financial services. It also raises taxes on companies and operators of digital businesses such as ride-hailing and food delivery services.

The bill will be read for the second time in parliament on Tuesday, after which lawmakers will need to read it for the third time and grant presidential assent. Ruto’s political alliance holds a majority in both parliament and the Senate and has the power to pass the bill into law.

National Treasury officials say the tax measures are crucial to raising revenue and limiting borrowing in a highly indebted economy.

But activists, economists and Religious leaders All said higher taxes could discourage investment, stifle growth and make Kenya a less competitive destination in East Africa. They also said the plan would hit key sectors such as manufacturing, transportation and financial services.

“For countries like Kenya that face fiscal challenges, the discussion around addressing debt and achieving a balance of economic growth is very important,” said John Kinuthia, senior program officer at the Kenya chapter of the nonprofit International Budget Partnership.

“But even as it looks for new resources, governments need to be aware of the noise these new initiatives create and their impact, particularly at the household level.”

Mr. Ruto is a wealthy businessman; Poor backgroundCritics say he has failed to deliver on his campaign platform of improving the economic situation of millions of Kenyans struggling to make ends meet.

His government raised health insurance and pension contributions for working people. It eliminated fuel subsidies, imposed a housing tax, and raised electricity prices. These measures—along with a severe drought and subsequent flooding—led to job losses and Factory ClosureAccording to experts.

Last year, soaring living costs also sparked demonstrations during which police killed at least 57 people. According to human rights organizations.

“It’s just one pain after another,” said Catherine Mueni Mutuku, who owns a grocery store in the capital, Nairobi. Ms. Mutuku said she has been struggling to pay the rent for her store and home, while also paying for her children’s high school tuition.

“Politicians are really putting pressure on us,” said Ms. Mutuku, who plans to attend Tuesday’s protest. “It’s like they don’t feel our pain.”

As Mr Ruto raises taxes and cuts spending, his government has been under pressure to Major corruption scandal. his Global Travel and his Likes expensive shoes and watches It also sparked outrage on social media, with many Kenyans calling him “Zakayo”, a reference to the biblical tax collector Zacchaeus.

Yet Ruto, 57, has not only doubled down, but has also pledged to increase taxes in the coming years. “I will not lead a bankrupt country,” he said. explain last month. “We have to start living within our means.”

In the past few days, Kenyans Shared Contacts Their lawmakers appealed to voters online Force them to reject the bill. Lawmakers said they have received a large number of Messages and calls.

Ms. Adan, the protest organizer, said the fact that people from all political and economic persuasions had united to oppose the bill showed how dire the situation was across the country.

“Ruto and his policies have turned everyone into a radical activist,” she said. “This is not just a protest by the poor. This is a protest by everyone.”

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