Kenya protest death toll climbs to two

AFP , Saturday 8 Jul 2023

The number of people killed in protests in Kenya rose to two on Saturday, a hospital official told AFP, after opposition leader Raila Odinga urged Kenyans to take to the streets against tax hikes.

Protesters surround the vehicle convoy of opposition leader Raila Odinga as tear gas lands near it, during protests in the capital Nairobi, Kenya Friday, July 7, 2023. AP


Police on Friday fired tear gas in the capital Nairobi, targeting Odinga's convoy, and took similar steps against demonstrations in the cities of Mombasa and Kisumu.

"We had another death at the casualty now bringing the number of deaths to two as a result of demonstrations yesterday," said George Rae, CEO of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga hospital in Kisumu, an opposition stronghold on Lake Victoria.

On Saturday, police used tear gas on civil society representatives, including former chief justice Willy Mutunga, who were demanding the release of dozens of people taken into custody during the protests, campaigners said.

"It is not justified at all for police to hurl tear gas at us when we have come peacefully to seek the release of innocent activists detained in the cells since yesterday", said advocate Lempaa Suyianka.

"Some of them were even injured and they require medical attention," he told reporters.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights on Saturday called for "a thorough investigation into all reported incidents of police brutality", adding to the chorus of condemnation from rights groups including Amnesty International against "arbitrary arrests".

"The acts of police brutality, including the use of excessive force resulting in injuries and the arrest and detention of peaceful demonstrators, are clear violations of... constitutional provisions," the commission said in a statement.

Odinga's spokesman Dennis Onyango told AFP on Saturday his Azimio alliance plans to hold "at least one (protest) every week" against the policies of President William Ruto's government, with the next one expected on Wednesday.

10 million signatures 

Odinga on Friday said he intended to collect 10 million signatures in a bid to remove his arch-rival from office.

The 78-year-old lost the August 2022 election to Ruto and has repeatedly denounced the poll as "stolen".

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua dismissed Odinga's petition campaign, saying: "There is no provision in our constitution giving a leeway to remove a sitting president through signatures."

"The provision is that you vie in an election and win", he said Saturday.

Last week, Ruto signed into law a finance bill expected to generate more than $2.1 billion for the government's depleted coffers and help repair the heavily-indebted economy.

The Finance Act provides for new taxes or increases on basic goods such as fuel and food and mobile money transfers, as well as a controversial levy on all tax-payers to fund a housing scheme.

The government says the taxes will help create jobs and reduce public borrowing.

The Nairobi high court last month suspended implementation of the legislation after a senator filed a case challenging its constitutional legality.

But Kenya's energy regulator nevertheless announced a hike in pump prices after the doubling of VAT to 16 percent as stipulated in the law.

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