Kenyan parliament passes tax bill amid protests

Kenyan parliament passes tax bill amid protests
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Kenyan lawmakers passed a controversial budget bill on Tuesday, sparking outrage as thousands marched to parliament in Nairobi. Demonstrators pleaded with the government to reject the proposed tax hikes, saying they would disproportionately burden ordinary Kenyans.

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

The proposed law has sparked a firestorm across Kenya. The East African nation, known for its relative stability, has seen days of nationwide demonstrations. Human rights groups have documented at least one death and hundreds of injuries during protests last week. In particular, one prominent figure, Auma Obama, half-sister of former U.S. President Barack Obama, was reportedly caught in the tear gas dispersal.

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

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

Kenyans are highlighting 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 welfare of low-income Kenyans. Opposition lawmakers have vehemently rejected the bill in its entirety.

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

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