Police deploy tear gas, water cannons on protesters in Kenya’s capital

In Nairobi on Thursday, riot police deployed tear gas and water cannons to disperse a large crowd of demonstrators.

Coordinated marches were held across Kenya protesting government plans to raise an additional $2.7 billion in taxes aimed at reducing the budget deficit.

In Nairobi’s central business district, police sprayed protesters with purple-colored water from water cannons and blocked their route towards parliament.

Despite the peaceful nature of the demonstration, the reason for the use of force remained unclear. Requests for comment from police spokesperson Resila Onyango and Nairobi police commander Adamson Bungei went unanswered.

Protesters argue that these tax hikes will adversely impact the economy and further burden Kenyans already struggling to make ends meet.

Earlier this week, a parliamentary panel recommended that the government eliminate several proposed taxes outlined in its finance bill, including levies on car ownership, bread, cooking oil, and financial transactions.

President William Ruto, elected nearly two years ago with a pledge to support Kenya’s working class, has faced recurrent protests against tax policies. He defends the increases as necessary to reduce government borrowing.

Elsewhere in Kenya on Thursday, demonstrators in cities like Nyeri, Nakuru, Eldoret, Mombasa, and Kisumu peacefully called for lawmakers to reject the bill, waving placards with slogans such as “No to economic dictatorship” and chanting “Ruto must go”.

The International Monetary Fund has encouraged the Kenyan government to boost revenues in its upcoming budget to curb state borrowing.

Meanwhile, in parliament, lawmakers debated the bill during its second reading on Thursday. Despite Ruto’s majority, some legislators allied with his coalition expressed reservations about the proposed taxes.

Ndindi Nyoro, chair of the parliament’s budget committee, indicated that the Finance Ministry warned scrapping these tax hikes would create a revenue shortfall of 200 billion shillings in the 2024/25 budget, necessitating equivalent spending cuts.

Tuesday witnessed significant demonstrations against the bill, marking the largest backlash against Ruto’s administration since protests last July, during which rights groups reported at least nine fatalities.

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