At least five shot dead in Kenya at protests against tax hikes

Police in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, have shot dead at least five people during huge protests against planned tax increases, according to the Kenya Medical Association. A journalist form the Reuters news agency also reported counting the bodies of at least five protesters outside parliament.

Earlier, the crowds broke through police cordons and entered parliament, setting part of the complex alight. Fire also broke out in Nairobi City Hall. About 40 people are being treated in hospital.

Protesters reportedly driven from parliament The Reuters news agency is reporting that protesters have been driven from parliament amid clouds of tear gas and the sound of gunfire.

A section of Parliament went up in flames on Tuesday after protesters gained entry, forcing police to open fire.

Several demonstrators were shot after many stormed the National Assembly precincts following the approval of the Finance Bill 2024.

The fate of those shot by police remained unknown, but our Reporters said they saw several of them writing in pain on the ground bleeding.

“People have been shot, it is very bad,” one protester yelled, running away from a thick cloud of teargas.

A section of Parliament was also set ablaze as was a truck parked just outside the fence.

“We have never seen this before, God save Kenya,” an elderly man said running and screaming.

At least six people were rushed to hospital in ambulances.

A human rights organisation said it has witnessed four protesters being shot, and said that one person had been been killed. This has not been confirmed.

“Such actions are unacceptable and constitute a grave violation of human rights,” the NGO the Kenya Human Rights Commission said.

Thousands of protesters have been engaged in running battles with the police since morning, with the security officers firing rubber bullets and teargas to break up the crowds.

There have been concurrent protests around the country.

The push by the protesters came just as MPs passed a controversial finance bill that introduced unpopular tax proposals.

All through the day businesses were shut and transport has been paralysed in the city as police engaging in running battles with demonstrators.

The youth-led protests have been calling on MPs to reject proposed tax increases.

The government, which has rowed back on some of the most controversial measures, says new taxes are needed to fund spending programmes and lessen the debt burden.

Earlier, an AFP journalist was quoted as hearing a police officer tell his colleagues to ” get the rubber bullets from the box”.

The police then reportedly started firing in the air and at the protesters.

Officers have been deployed to protect various key government installations including parliament.

A BBC reporter in Nairobi said the crowds, in their thousands, were much bigger than in previous protests and the police seemed to be overwhelmed.

The protesters who had been shouting “reject the finance bill” vowed to get to the parliament complex.

“We are coming to reject the taxes that are being imposed… We had been given promises that within two years we would see change, but what change are we seeing?” 24-year-old Derrick Mwathu told the BBC.

“There some things that are hard to understand, like how can you impose 16% tax on bread! How can you tax sanitary pads.”

He was referring to some of the controversial measures initially proposed – the government has since said it would not impose the tax on bread and only tax imported sanitary items.

There have also been huge crowds in many other parts of the country, with local Kenya newspaper the Daily Nation reporting protests in about 30 of the country’s 47 counties.

Television news channels are broadcasting split-screen live images from around the country of the crowds in different cities.

Ahead of the demonstrations, lawyers and human rights groups expressed concern about arbitrary arrests and the intimidation of activists during earlier protests.

It came amid reports of at least five prominent social media users being abducted at dawn, hours before the demonstrations.

The protests have attracted the attention of Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine and South Africa’s Julius Malema who have both expressed their support.

The government has defended the taxes as necessary for raising additional revenue to reduce Kenya’s debt, but last week conceded to some demands.

It scrapped some contentious taxes including proposed taxes on bread, cooking oil and motor vehicle ownership in the wake of a public outcry.

But the protesters have been saying that this is not enough, and have agitated for the complete withdrawal of the bill.

Despite that, majority MPs passed the controversial bill during its second reading and were on Tuesday debating on the various amendments, to remove some of the clauses that the government has considered contentious.

At least two people died in protests and hundreds others injured in last week’s demonstrations, which were largely peaceful.

Mr Ruto acknowledged the protests and promised he will hold talks to address the concerns of the youth who are at the forefront of the protests.

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