Kenyan parliament passes tax law amid protests

Kenyan lawmakers passed a controversial finance law on Tuesday, sparking outrage from thousands of people who marched on Parliament in Nairobi. Demonstrators pleaded with the government to reject the proposed tax increases, arguing they would disproportionately burden ordinary Kenyans.

Clashes broke out as police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. Footage captured by international media showed the chaotic scene, including the use of force against protesters. Reports of human rights activists being kidnapped ahead of the protest also emerged, raising concerns about freedom of expression.

The proposed legislation has set off a firestorm across Kenya. The East African nation, known for its relative stability, witnessed days of nationwide demonstrations. Human rights groups have documented at least one death and hundreds of injuries during last week’s protests. In particular, a prominent figure, Auma Obama, half-sister of former US president Barack Obama, was allegedly involved in the dispersion of tear gas.

President William Ruto’s administration introduced the bill in May to address the country’s ballooning debt and generate revenue. However, critics fiercely oppose the bill, citing its inclusion of punitive taxes on essential goods and services that would increase the cost of living.

The legislation now awaits President Ruto’s signature within the next two weeks. He can pass it into law or return it to Parliament for review.

Kenyans highlight what they perceive as excessive government spending and a lack of transparency in the management of public funds. The public outcry extends to President Ruto’s alleged deviation from campaign promises to prioritize the well-being of low-income Kenyans. Opposition lawmakers vehemently rejected the bill in its entirety.

Despite some concessions, such as the removal of taxes on bread and cooking oil, protesters remain resolute in their demands. Many shared experiences of intimidation and threats before the demonstrations, vowing to remain steadfast in their fight against the bill.