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Fresh tax proposals by Kenya’s president spark nationwide youth protests

A controversial finance bill proposed by President William Ruto has led to nationwide protests by young people in Kenya.

The protests creeped from the digital confines of TikTok before morphing into a full blown uprising on the streets.

It began on Tuesday in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, and on Wednesday in Mombasa.

As of Thursday, the demonstrations have spread across various regions including Nakuru, Kisumu, Kisii, Eldoret, and Nanyuki.

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Days before Tuesday’s protests, youths made a rallying call on social media using the hashtag #OccupyParliament, while urging Kenyans to turn up in numbers for the protests.

The finance bill was introduced as part of Kenya’s budget for next year.

Njuguna Ndung’u, finance minister, said the budget aims to “revitalise” Kenya’s economy, raise an additional 346.7 billion Kenyan shillings in revenue and help alleviate debt.

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The bill, which was proposed to take effect on July 1, is however still undergoing scrutiny before a subsequent vote by members of parliament.

In the wake of the protests, some parts of the bill have been scrapped, including a 16 percent value-added tax (VAT) on bread, taxes on foreign exchange transactions and financial services, and a 2.5 percent motor vehicle tax.

The government has now targeted an increase in fuel prices and export taxes to fill the void left by the changes.

These proposals have been met with significant resistance from the younger generation, who feel that the move will worsen the cost-of-living crisis.

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Holding aloft placards bearing inscriptions like ‘Reject the Finance Bill’ and ‘Ruto must go’, the youths vowed not to relent even if MPs pass the bill.

At least 283 protesters, including four journalists, have been arrested, Amnesty Kenya told ABC News.

Earlier, Nairobi police threw caution to the winds and lobbed teargas inside a public service vehicle.

It was not immediately clear if there were serious injuries in the vehicle but videos showed heavy smoke billowing from the stationary bus.

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Meanwhile, an unfazed Ruto says he is determined to transform the country despite the hurdles. The president urged the MPs to pass the bill.

 

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