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Dozens Arrested As Kenyans Protest Finance Bill Tax Hikes

18.06.2024 18:12

Kenyan President William Ruto hails protests as ‘how democracies function’

Police in Kenya arrested dozens of demonstrators Tuesday as they protested a proposed bill that includes several controversial tax hikes.

Protesters, including opposition supporters and civil society groups, carried placards that read: "Poverty is man-made" and "No to the Finance Bill," as they marched toward parliament.

"We are tired of the government's insensitivity to our struggles. They are now touching on bread, milk, and all those things that us poor people rely on," Brandon Mwangi, a demonstrator, told Anadolu.

The demonstrations that were organized in Nairobi and other cities saw Kenyans voicing outrage about the increased taxes on essentials such as fuel, food and other goods.

Finance Bill 2024 includes proposals to increase taxes on mobile money transfers, banking transactions and other financial services. Additionally, it seeks to introduce higher taxes on digital services.

The measures, according to the government, are aimed at generating revenue to support the budget for the upcoming fiscal year -- a move that has sparked widespread backlash from Kenyans who are already struggling with the high cost of living.

On Tuesday, President William Ruto said: "We have had a robust public engagement on the proposed Finance Bill. We have adjusted the document accordingly. We are glad we are having conversations about issues, and our institutions are working. This is how democracies function."

Rights organizations in Kenya have demanded the unconditional release of those detained after Nairobi Police Commander Adamson Bungei outlawed the protests.

Social media was flooded with photos of protesters in police vehicles and users sharing experiences and expressing solidarity with the protest movement.

Lawyers demand release of protesters

Chris Kamau Waweru, an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and member of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), called on the rights of everyone to be protected.

"The rights of the protesters have to be protected, especially in this constitutional dispensation. Our forefathers have fought hard for the freedoms we enjoy today and the government should not try to take away the freedoms We will stand by our fellow Kenyans when those rights are infringed," he told Anadolu.

Lawyer Kipkoech Justin, part of a group of advocates from the LSK, stormed the Central Police Station in Nairobi, demanding the immediate release of protesters who were arrested.

"It is unacceptable for peaceful protestors to be detained for exercising their constitutional right to demonstrate. Police are not following the law they are supposed to maintain. It is unacceptable," Justin told Anadolu.

Despite tensions, some concessions were made as several taxes were removed Tuesday from the bill, including a 16% Value Added Tax (VAT), VAT on the transportation of sugar and a VAT on financial services and foreign exchange transactions.

Additionally, there will be no increase in mobile money transfer fees, and the 2.5% Motor Vehicle Tax and excise duty on vegetable oil were also scrapped. -

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