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I Concede To Kenyans, Won’t Sign Tax Hike Bill, President Ruto Says After 23 Died In Violent Protest

William Ruto

“Listening keenly to the people of Kenya who have said loudly that they want nothing to do with this finance bill 2024, I concede. And therefore, I will not sign the 2024 finance bill, and it shall subsequently be withdrawn.”
These were the words of President William Ruto in a televised address with lawmakers after 23 Kenyans were feared killed by security agents during violent protest against the tax hike.
President Ruto said that he would now start a dialogue with Kenyan youth, without going into details, and work on austerity measures, beginning with cuts to the budget of the presidency to make up the difference in the country’s finances.
He said that the loss of lives on Tuesday was “very unfortunate.”
Even if Ruto’s concession manages to see off the immediate threat of more unrest, it still leaves him caught between the competing demands of his hard-pressed citizens and of lenders such as the IMF, which is urging the government to cut deficits to obtain more financing.
On Tuesday, June 25, police opened fire on crowds who massed around parliament and later broke into the senate chamber and national assembly, minutes after lawmakers had voted through the tax measures and sent them on to the president.
The Nation newspaper, Kenya, documented protests in at least 35 of Kenya’s 47 counties, from big cities to rural areas, even in President Ruto’s hometown of Eldoret in his ethnic Kalenjin heartland.
At least 23 people were killed across the East African country and another 30 were being treated for bullet wounds, the Kenya Medical Association said yesterday.
Medical officials in Nairobi said scores had been injured.
Heavily armed police patrolled the streets of the capital Nairobi, which were quieter than usual on Wednesday.
The protests began as an online outpouring of anger by young, tech-savvy Kenyans at proposed taxes on bread and diapers and evolved into a nationwide movement calling for the scrapping of the entire finance bill including the taxes.
Thousands took to the streets of Nairobi and several other cities during two days of protests last week as an online movement gathered momentum.
While the young Kenyans in the current demonstrations have no official leader and have loudly urged the political opposition figures that have typically organised protests to stay away, some of Ruto’s main rivals could not hide their delight with the president’s climb-down.
“Self-preservation has kicked in,” opposition senator Edwin Sifuna posted on X.
Lawmakers have already removed some tax hikes from the final version of the finance bill on Tuesday, including ones on bread and cooking oil, but inserted others in an effort to avoid a budget gap.
Vice President Rigathi Gachagua asked young people to call off the protests to avoid any further loss of life and destruction of property, and blamed the intelligence services for giving the government poor advice.
“There would have been no mayhem, but they slept on the job,” Gachagua said in a speech, calling on the head of the National Intelligence Service to resign.
Protesters were defiant, repeating calls for President Ruto to step down and vowing further action in the streets.
Source: ThisDay.

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