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Kenyan Cities Erupt In Protests Over $2.7bn Tax Hike Plan

ON Thursday, hundreds of demonstrators marched through cities across Kenya to protest the government’s plan to raise $2.7bn in additional taxes aimed at reducing the budget deficit. Protesters claim these tax increases will harm the economy and raise the cost of living for Kenyans already struggling financially.

Earlier in the week, a Kenyan parliamentary panel recommended that the government scrap some of the new taxes proposed in the finance bill. These included taxes on car ownership, bread, cooking oil, and financial transactions.

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In Nairobi, riot police fired tear gas to disperse small groups of protesters in the financial district and blocked their path to parliament. Demonstrations also took place in cities such as Nyeri, Nakuru, Eldoret, and Kisumu, where protestors waved placards with slogans like ‘We say no to economic dictatorship’ and called for lawmakers to reject the bill.

The IMF has urged the Kenyan government to increase revenues in its 2024/25 budget to reduce state borrowing. On Thursday, lawmakers debated the bill in its second reading before parliament.

President William Ruto, who was elected almost two years ago on a platform promising to support Kenya’s working poor, has faced recurring protests against tax increases. He has defended the tax hikes, emphasising the need for the government to reduce its reliance on borrowing.

The protests on Thursday followed a similar demonstration on Tuesday, which saw hundreds of people take to the streets in opposition to the bill. This marked the most significant backlash against Ruto’s government since protests in July of the previous year, during which rights groups reported at least nine people were killed.

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