More Than 200 Protesters Arrested In Kenya Over Proposed Tax Hikes

Kenya president says no more opposition protests
Kenya protest

Over 200 protesters have been arrested in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament.

Several civil society groups said that despite the arrests, demonstrations and a planned sit-down outside the parliament buildings will continue.

Nairobi Police Commander Adamson Bungei on Tuesday said no group had been granted permission to protest in the capital.

Police on Tuesday hurled tear gas canisters and water cannons at hundreds of demonstrators forcing businesses to close for fear of looting temporarily.

A lawyer, Wanjohi Gachie, said he was protesting on behalf of all Kenyans who would be potentially burdened by the tax hikes.

“I’m requesting the police not to arrest or beat us because we are fighting for their rights as well,” he said.

Some major tax proposals in the bill were dropped after a Tuesday morning meeting between ruling party MPs and President William Ruto.

The chairperson of the finance committee, Kuria Kimani, said the proposal to introduce a 16% VAT tax on bread had been dropped.

Other levies that had prompted debate and have been amended include a proposed 2.5% motor vehicle annual tax that was to be placed on insurance.

A proposed tax on goods that degrade the environment will also be amended to apply only to imported goods to encourage local manufacturing.

Ruto last month defended the proposed taxes saying the country must be financially self-sustaining.

“The whole principle is that you must live within your means,” he said.

“I persuaded and I made a case to the people of Kenya that we must begin to enhance our revenue,” Ruto added.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga urged MPs to scrutinize the bill and vote to remove clauses that would burden the poor.

“It is worse than the one of 2023, an investment killer and a huge millstone around the necks of millions of poor Kenyans who must have hoped that the tears they shed over taxes last year would see the government lessen the tax burden in 2024,” he said in a statement in early June.

Meanwhile, legislators are due to debate the bill starting Wednesday with a vote scheduled for Monday

An opposition figure Kalonzo Musyoka said that weekly protests would resume if the finance bill is approved as proposed.