Kenya Tax Protests: Over 200 Injured and 100 Arrested, Report Rights Groups

Kenya Tax Protests: Over 200 Injured and 100 Arrested, Report Rights Groups
A demonstrator throws back a tear gas canister at police officers during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill, in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 20, 2024 [Andrew Kasuku/AP Photo]

Protests broke out across Kenya in reaction to the government’s plans to increase taxes, leading to extensive disturbance and confrontations between protesters and police. This was a strong statement of disapproval. Human rights groups including the Kenya Medical Association and Amnesty International claim that over 200 people were injured and over 100 people were arrested as a result of the demonstrations.

Protesters voiced their objections to planned tax rises set to generate some $2.7 billion in extra income during the turmoil, which mostly occurred in major hubs like Nairobi. Salaried employees, business owners, and consumers all stood to lose financially as a result of these policies. Protesters said these budgetary measures went against what President William Ruto’s administration had said before: that they would lower taxes and make living expenses more affordable.

Damage to soft tissues and inhalation of tear gas were among the injuries sustained by protestors and riot police alike as a result of the tear gas, water cannon, and rubber bullets used during the clashes. Unfortunately, there were also reports of people being hit by cars while trying to get away from the cops. There were also claims that live ammunition was used, and expended cartridges were found at the protest locations.


Police officers fire tear gas canisters during protests over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill being debated in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 20, 2024 [Andrew Kasuku/AP Photo]
Amidst the mayhem, news broke of a 29-year-old man’s death at Nairobi’s Bliss Medical Centre from wounds he had received during the demonstrations. Concerns about police brutality have been on the rise, and this event has added fuel to the fire, with advocacy groups demanding that officers exercise restraint and respect for human rights.

The administration caved and withdrew several controversial tax ideas in response to mounting public pressure and protests in nineteen counties. As part of this, proposals to impose a 16% VAT on bread and a yearly vehicle tax were shelved. But protesters persisted in demanding more extensive changes to the law, so emotions were high despite these compromises.

The Law Society of Kenya and the Defenders Coalition were among the rights groups who issued pleas due to the unstable situation, requesting that the authorities desist from using intimidation and arbitrary arrests. In response to the demonstrators’ complaints, the group of organizations reaffirmed their opposition to the excessive use of force and demanded that those responsible take responsibility.

Protests in Kenya have brought attention to a number of socioeconomic issues, including public dissatisfaction with budgetary policies, which have persisted over the course of many days. Future policy decisions and public mood towards government in Kenya could be shaped by the consequences of these demonstrations, which are happening at a time when parliament is still debating the proposed tax reforms.


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