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Protests break out in Kenya over tax bill: What you need to know

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The sting of tear gas, the roar of bullets and images of wounded bodies littered the ground as mass protests broke out in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Tuesday after the country’s parliament passed a controversial tax hike bill despite criticism that it would reduce revenue. Intensifying economic despair.

Civil society groups said at least five people died from gunshot wounds as protesters stormed parliament amid smoke-filled clouds and a protest against a tax bill ended in clashes between police and protesters. Kidnapping critics, Mass arrests across the country Quelling riots and using force Serious injuries, at least one death.

Kenya is a bastion of economic security in the region, with a population of over 54 million. young people Using technology and social media to organize opposition to the government, which they believe transcends ethnicity, tribe, race, and socioeconomic class.

Here’s what we know about the controversial legislation that sparked Tuesday’s clashes.

The Ruto government introduced the Finance Bill 2024 to parliament in May, which aims to raise revenue to help the country tackle its massive debt problem in a borrowing-based economy.

Initially, the bill called for taxes on essential goods such as bread, cooking oil and cars, but a public backlash led lawmakers to remove some of the levies. However, those removals failed to quell public protests.

The bill, passed by parliament on Tuesday, is expected to raise taxes on imported goods, including some basic commodities such as eggs from nearby East African countries, as well as phone and internet usage, bank transfer fees and levies on digitally operated businesses.

Critics of the bill say it will further increase prices for consumers in a country already struggling with high living costs.

The overall opposition Trends across AfricaYoung Kenyans are increasingly bearing the brunt of rising unemployment, and all Kenyans are suffering from high prices, which are partly caused by the coronavirus pandemic and trade turmoil caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Another factor for Kenya is the burden of a huge national debt.

There is anger and resentment towards President William Ruto because of his election promises improve living quality For those living in poverty, this has angered an increasingly disaffected public. Ruto’s government had previously raised health insurance and electricity prices, which, combined with natural disasters, led to protests last year, human rights groups said. Death 57.

Michelle Gavin, senior fellow for Africa policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Kenyans are “feeling increasingly stressed by subsidy removals and tax increases, and feel the government has misled Kenyans by campaigning on economic empowerment but pursuing austerity policies when it comes to governance.”

“This is all happening against the backdrop of a lack of job opportunities and persistent corruption among the political elite,” she added. “The finance bill is like the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’.”

Ruto’s lavish lifestyle has been a focus of criticism by opponents, who contrast it with the poor who will be hardest hit by impending tax hikes.

Less than a month ago The White House received Mr Ruto Attending a state dinner, hoping to strengthen the United States’ uneasy balance in the African Union. On Monday, Ruto sent the first Kenyan police contingent to Haiti as part of a Biden administration-led plan The deployment has sparked criticism at home as part of a campaign to curb gang violence in Haiti. Some have questioned whether Kenyan police are Brutal historysuitable for carrying out such a mission.

Human rights groups have long accused Kenyan police of using heavy-handed tactics to suppress protesters and carrying out extrajudicial killings in police stations.

President Ruto has two weeks to sign the bill into law or send it back to Parliament for amendments.

In a public address on Tuesday evening, Ruto called the protests “treasonous acts” and an “existential threat” to the country, and said the government had “mobilized all the resources of the country to ensure that such incidents do not happen again at all costs.”

Kenya’s Defense Minister Aden Duale said the military was assisting the police.

In a joint statement, 13 Western embassies, including the United States, said they were “shocked” by the violence and “deeply concerned” by allegations that protesters had been kidnapped. They called on “all parties to exercise restraint.”

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