Massive chaos has grappled the Kenyan capital Nairobi as police fired tear gas and water cannons to control the crowd that hit the streets to protest against the proposed tax hikes.
In the deadly stir that has rocked Kenya, five people were shot dead and 31 injured, several NGOs including Amnesty Kenya reported in a joint statement.
The demonstrators had largely been peaceful over the past week but the clashes erupted in Nairobi on Tuesday, with crowds throwing stones at police, breaching barricades and forcing their way into Parliament premises.
The agitations became intense to the extent that thousands of protesters, who entered the premises set on fire part of the parliament building, which prompted the legislators to evacuate it. In retaliation, the Kenyan cops shot fires and rubber bullets.
What led to deadly clashes
The anti-tax protest was called in the wake of the finance bill, which has become a point of contention between the protestors and the government.
The bill aims to increase an additional $2.7 billion in taxes as part of an effort to shed off the heavy debt load, with interest payments alone consuming 37 per cent of annual revenue.
The government has already given some concessions, promising amendments to the bill to scrap proposed new taxes on bread, cooking oil, car ownership and financial transactions.
However, the concessions have failed to pacify the protesters, who are demanding that the entire bill be scrapped. The agitators have also asked William Ruto to step down as the President.
The protest largely peaceful for the last few days, turned violent on Tuesday after people marched enmass through the streets of the coastal city of Mombasa, a port city on Lake Victoria, and other towns. The discontent with the bill has turned into a headache for the government which has failed to convince its nationals.
“This is my first protest,” said Sonia, 37, a digital marketer told news agency Reuters.
“The other years I didn’t really feel a need to come out but it’s (taxes) really affecting my business. Most times when Kenyans protest it’s violent, but no one is looting. The cops are the ones who are beating us for no reason,” she said.
Kenya’s president vows action
President William Ruto vowed to take tough action against “violence and anarchy” after the tax hikes protest spiralled into major chaos.
“We shall provide a full, effective and expeditious response to today’s treasonous events,” Ruto was quoted as saying by the news agency AFP. He said the demonstrations were “hijacked by dangerous people”.
It was inconceivable 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,” Ruto added.
“I hereby put on notice the planners, financiers, orchestrators, abetters of violence and anarchy,” he said.
Later, the government deployed the military to support embattled police officers as turned descended into fatal clashes.
India issues advisory for Indians in Kenya
Amid raging protests in the African nation, India on Tuesday issued an advisory for its nationals in Kenya.
The Indian Embassy in Kenya advised the Indian nationals to “exercise utmost caution” and avoid the areas hit by the protests or violence till the situation improves.
The Indian mission also advised the Indian nationals to follow local news and the Mission’s website and social media handles for updates.
“In view of the prevailing tense situation, all Indians in Kenya are advised to exercise utmost caution, restrict non-essential movement and avoid the areas affected by the protests and violence till the situation clears up,” the Embassy stated.
UN chief expresses ‘deep concern’
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “deeply concerned” by the violence in Kenya, his spokesman said Tuesday, describing him as “saddened” by reports of fatalities.
“(The) Secretary-General is obviously deeply concerned over the reported violence that we’ve seen connected with these protests and street demonstrations,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a briefing. “He’s very much saddened by the reports of deaths and injuries, including journalists and medical personnel.”