Kenyan President William Ruto on Wednesday withdrew the controversial bill to raise taxes that led to massive violent protests nationwide in which 27 people died, CNN reported. Ruto`s decision not to sign the finance bill came after violent clashes erupted in the country.

“Having reflected on the continuing conversation regarding the content of the finance bill 2024, and listening keenly to the people of Kenya who have said loudly that they want nothing to do with this Finance Bill 2024, I concede, and therefore I will not sign the 2024 finance bill,” Ruto said during a television address Wednesday.

“The people have spoken,” Ruto said. “Following the passage of the bill, the country experienced widespread expression of dissatisfaction with the bill as passed, regrettably resulting in the loss of life, the destruction of property and desecration of constitutional institutions.”

However, despite Ruto accepting their key demand of scrapping the bill, the protesters in Kenya say they will go ahead with a “One Million People March” on Thursday. A poster was widely shared on social media, calling on people across all generations to return to the streets across the country on Thursday and block roads leading to the capital Nairobi.

Some protesters have also called for people to occupy the State House in Nairobi. Kenya, a nation often praised for its stability, has ben seeing escalating protests over the bill, which the government introduced to rein in public debt, CNN reported.

Last week, the government scrapped some tax increases, including a proposed 16 per cent value-added tax on bread, along with taxes on motor vehicles, vegetable oil and mobile money transfers. But the concessions were not enough to quell protests amid the rising cost of living.

The protests turned deadly on Tuesday when security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition at protesters. Dramatic scenes unfolded in the nation`s capital, Nairobi, as government buildings were set on fire and a ceremonial mace was stolen from the parliament in the melee. Kenyan lawmakers were evacuated from the parliament as police went up against protesters, CNN affiliate NTV Kenya reported.

At least 23 people died in the violence, according to Kenya`s Police Reforms Working Group, (PRWG) a civil society organisation. The PRWG alleged in a statement published by Amnesty International Kenya that police targeted young, unarmed protesters outside the parliament, with the violence continuing into the night. They added that “reports show police shot several people in Githurai, Nairobi, one over 40 times — between 10 pm and 1 am, way after the protest ended.”

This was in contrast to details given by Ruto, who said in his speech that six people died. According to CNN, Ruto`s change of heart came as a surprise to some who observed his hardline stance just a day earlier. During a nationwide address after the 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.”

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