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Kenya: thousands demonstrate against proposed tax increases

Protesters demonstrate against Kenya's proposed finance bill in Kisumu town, Kenya

Protesters demonstrate against Kenya's proposed finance bill in Kisumu town, Kenya

After months of expressing anger on social media, thousands of Kenyans gathered in Nairobi and elsewhere this week to protest a bill that would increase taxes to pay for loans and development.

Demonstrations continued Thursday, even as the government announced it would scale back part of the proposed tax increases. Hundreds of protesters in Nairobi demanded lawmakers reject the 2024 Finance Bill, which increases taxes on different sectors of the economy. Some of these higher taxes are a result of infrastructure debt owed to China.

Hundreds more protested in President William Ruto’s hometown of Eldoret, and the cities of Nyeri, Nakuru, Kisii and Kisumu. The proposed taxes would increase the prices of diapers, tyres, batteries, smartphones, and cameras. The government wants to increase the fuel levy by Kshs 9 (about UGX 290), which the bill's sponsors say will be used to maintain damaged roads.

The government has also introduced a so-called ecology levy, which it says is necessary to fight plastic pollution and protect the environment. Effie Muendo, who is protesting the proposed taxes, explained why she is against the bill.

"The finance bill is unconstitutional, and it's very punitive to the people of Kenya,” she said. “Sixty-five per cent of women cannot afford sanitary towels, and yet they want to tax them. They are telling us they want us to buy local brands, and yet local brands are not available. Many women cannot afford them already. When they tax them, how much will it be? So, they are really trying to mess with our dignity as women and that one we cannot allow."

The Thursday protest went on for hours, and police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse demonstrators who occupied streets in central Nairobi. Some protesters were not happy with the police presence, which blocked them from accessing the parliament buildings.

One protester named Diana said she doesn't understand why police were blocking them when they are fighting for a better Kenya.

"They are throwing tear gas at us, they are fighting us, they are beating us up. We are not at peace, we are peacefully demonstrating for our country because we love our country, Kenya," she said.

Kimani Mbugua, another protester, said he would fight the bill to the end.

"We are supposed to demonstrate, it’s a provision in our constitution. I don't understand why the government is giving us tear gas, and we are here exercising our democratic rights. We are here to fight the finance bill because the finance bill is punitive, and it must be fought. We are fighting it to the core, and it must be rejected," Mbugua said.

The parliament committee in charge of finance and planning has dropped the proposed taxes on bread and cooking oil, the annual 2.5 per cent levy on motor vehicles, and the tax on financial transactions.

The changes announced Tuesday didn't satisfy protesters, who demanded the entire bill be discarded. However, that prospect is unpopular with ruling party members who argue that Kenyans need to pay more taxes to fund government development programs and loan payments.

The National Assembly is expected to vote on the bill next week. Kenyans have vowed to continue protesting as the debate rages on.

Comments

0 #1 kabayekka 2024-06-21 09:42
Well who can blame them? Social media is full up with all sorts of great expenditures of the Kenyan government and its agents nationwide and abroad.

The Kenyan government can try to terminate social media as Uganda dictatorship does when there are credible public demonstrations.

Kenya seems to be as wealthy as the oil rich African country of Nigeria. Unlike countries like Uganda, Sudan or Somalia where brutal civil wars have been erupting on and off since their independence started some 60 years ago!
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0 #2 WADADA rogers 2024-06-21 16:18
Holly father, why did you create all courageous men and women and placed them in Kenya and non in Uganda, why dont you send the holy ghost to do something with our people in Uganda to wake up from their slumber.
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