Protesters in Kenya demonstrated in several cities, including the capital Nairobi, were met with heavy police presence. The protests come as food prices continue to rise, causing pressure on households.
Kenyan police officers fired tear gas on protesters on Wednesday as they defied a police ban and joined demonstrations called for by opposition leader Raila Odinga against a series of tax hikes.
International organizations call for probe into police brutality
Last week’s demonstrations turned violent with six people killed, according to the Interior Ministry, and saw police being accused of using excessive force.
The police chief warned opposition supporters not to participate in “illegal demonstrations” the day before the scheduled protests, stressing that the organizers had failed to notify authorities of the demonstrations. According to Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome, all lawful means would be used to disperse the gatherings.
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has called for “a thorough investigation into all reported incidents of police brutality.” Amnesty International and other rights groups have also condemned the “arbitrary arrests.”
Economic pressure on Kenyan households rising
Odinga’s Azimio alliance has vowed to stage protests every week against the policies of President William Ruto’s government. Odinga, who lost the August 2022 election to Ruto, alleges that the poll was “stolen” and has been holding anti-government rallies throughout the year.
However, some Kenyans expressed their concern over the protests, saying that they could not afford the disruption caused by the demonstrations and had little faith in seeing improvements to their economic situation.
The finance bill signed into law by Ruto last month is expected to generate over $2.1 billion (Ꞓ1.91 billion) for the government but has led to new taxes and increases on basic goods including fuel, food, and mobile money transfers, as well as the controversial levy to fund a housing scheme.
The government argues that these measures will create jobs and reduce public borrowing. Opposition groups assert that the tax hikes will only exacerbate the hardships faced by Kenyans, who are already struggling with the soaring prices of basic commodities like maize flour.
los/sms (AFP, Reuters)