Kenya police make arrests at protest over tax hike plans

AFP , Tuesday 6 Jun 2023

Kenyan police fired tear gas and arrested 11 protesters, AFP journalists said, during a march in Nairobi on Tuesday against a new finance bill that critics say will pile more economic hardship on ordinary people.

Kenya protests
The demonstrations have been dubbed sita sita (six six) as they are being staged on the sixth day of the sixth month. AFP


The proposed legislation calls for new or increased taxes on a wide range of items including fuel and food as well as beauty products, crypto currencies and social media influencers.

Police fired off several volleys of tear gas and arrested 11 people, bundling them into a police truck, to try to disperse the demonstration, AFP journalists at the scene said.

"Down down finance bill," chanted protesters as a group of about 100 marched towards parliament, which resumed on Tuesday after a recess and is expected to debate the legislation this week.

"They want to kill us with hunger."

The demonstrations have been dubbed "sita sita" (six six) as they are being staged on the sixth day of the sixth month.

"We are witnessing some chaos which is not right. We are being chased but we are fighting for our rights," said one of the protesters, Rodgers Obogi, a 23-year-old unemployed man.

"We are demonstrating to express our frustrations, people need money, that money is being taxed twice."

'Cash crunch'

President William Ruto is seeking to fill the government's depleted coffers and repair a heavily-indebted economy inherited from his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta, who splurged on major infrastructure projects.

His government has drawn up a 3.6-trillion shilling ($26.2-billion) budget for 2023/24 with the proposed new taxes expected to generate 289 billion shillings.

Critics accuse Ruto of rowing back on promises made during the August 2022 election campaign, when he declared himself the champion of impoverished Kenyans and pledged to improve their economic fortunes.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga's Azimio party has denounced the bill, saying Ruto's government wanted to "take billions from the pockets of some of the poorest people in this country while expecting them to cheer".

"We have refused to sit back and watch as Kenyans are being harassed to fix cash crunch caused by economic mismanagement, wasteful spending, corruption and skewed and incompetent hiring into critical public positions," Azimio said in a statement on May 30.

Odinga earlier this year led a series of protests over Kenya's cost-of-living crisis and his complaint that victory was stolen from him in the presidential election.

Rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a report last week that 12 people had been killed by police during the demonstrations in March.

According to government figures, three people were killed in the unrest, including a policeman.

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