Kenyan President vows to restore order after deadly tax hike protests
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Kenyan President vows to restore order after deadly tax hike protests

Kenyan President William Ruto denounced protests on Tuesday that saw parliament stormed and at least five people shot dead as “treasonous” – but did not address the swelling outrage against a controversial finance bill which was the main cause of the demonstrations.

Kenya is in the grip of national protest against proposed tax hikes, culminating in Tuesday’s “total shutdown” of the country, which quickly turned violent as police used tear gas and live rounds on protesters.

The controversial finance bill has unleashed widespread protests movement vowing for “7 Days of Rage.” Last week, the government scrapped some tax increases, including a proposed 16% value-added tax on bread along with taxes on motor vehicles, vegetable oil and mobile money transfers. But the concessions have not been enough to quell protests amid the rising cost of living on the citizens.

A CNN team saw two bodies lying motionless on the ground in Nairobi as the country’s parliament was breached. Kenyan police were also seen beating and later arresting some paramedics who were helping injured protesters.

During a nationwide address after parliament was set alight, Ruto said the events on Tuesday were a grave threat to “national security” and that the conversation around the bill had been “hijacked by dangerous people.”

“It is not in order, or even conceivable, that criminals pretending to be

peaceful protesters can reign terror against the people, their elected representatives, and the institutions established under our Constitution and expect to go scot-free,” the president said, adding that democratic expression and crime must be isolated from one another.

Kenya’s defense ministry said the military has been deployed to support the country’s police services as human rights and civil society groups criticize the heavy-handed response by the police on Tuesday.

It was reported that at least five people were shot dead and around 31 were injured during Tuesday’s protests. Of these, 13 were hit with live bullets, four with rubber bullets, and three with launcher canisters, according to a joint statement by Amnesty International Kenya, the Kenya Medical Association, the Law Society of Kenya, and Police Reforms Working Group Kenya.

The joint statement also accused the police of shooting at a medical emergency center located at a church. CNN has reached out to the Kenyan police for comment.

“The use of live bullets must now stop,” the statement said. “Despite the assurance by the government that the right to assembly would be protected and facilitated, today’s protests have spiraled into violence. Human rights observers and medical officers have reported several incidents of human rights violation.”

The demonstrations, sparked by the Finance Bill 2024, have seen citizens rally under the banner of “7 Days of Rage,” as the nation faces more days of upheaval.

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