1. Violent protests in Kenya resulted in the Parliament building being breached and set on fire by demonstrators opposing the Finance Bill.
  2. The Finance Bill, proposing new taxes amidst economic hardships, faced significant public backlash.
  3. President Ruto’s support of the bill, aimed at addressing public debt, has intensified public discontent and accusations of neglecting domestic welfare.

youths being sprayed with water in Nairobi

The situation in Kenya has intensified dramatically as protests turned violent, with demonstrators breaching the Parliament building, setting parts of it on fire, and destroying furniture. Initially, the protests were peaceful, aimed at urging Members of Parliament (MPs) to reject the new Finance Bill. This annual budget legislation for the fiscal year 2024-25 proposes a series of new taxes intended to generate additional revenue amidst Kenya’s economic challenges. These measures, including taxes on basic commodities like bread and cooking oil, have drawn widespread criticism, especially from those already grappling with poverty exacerbated by economic downturns, including the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent global crises.

boy hurling back tear gas cannister

boy hurling back tear gas cannister

President William Ruto, advocating for the bill, argues that the tax increases are necessary to manage Kenya’s high public debt, currently at 68% of GDP. The bill, endorsed by international creditors such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has sparked accusations that the government prioritizes debt repayment over addressing domestic economic hardships, further fueling public discontent. Initially peaceful protests turned violent allegedly due to perceived police brutality. Reports indicate the use of tear gas, water cannons, and live ammunition against demonstrators, resulting in casualties and injuries. The heavy-handed police response has exacerbated tensions and led to further public outcry and condemnation.

Despite opposition, the Finance Bill passed its third reading in Parliament, with 195 votes in favor and 106 against. Critics argue that the bill’s passage, facilitated by Ruto’s ruling coalition majority, reflects a disconnect between legislative decisions and public sentiment. Protesters’ attempts to prevent the bill from advancing to presidential approval underscore deep-seated grievances and mistrust towards political leadership. The aftermath of the violent protests poses significant challenges for Kenya’s political stability and social cohesion. The government’s handling of the situation, including its response to public grievances and security measures, will be closely watched in the coming days. Observers warn that further unrest could ensue if underlying economic and social concerns remain unaddressed.

A protestor adressing the police

The events surrounding the Finance Bill highlight broader issues of governance, economic policy, and citizen participation in Kenya. As the nation navigates through these tumultuous times, there is a growing call for inclusive dialogue, transparent governance, and policies that prioritize national interests and public welfare. The coming days will be crucial in determining Kenya’s path forward, as authorities and stakeholders seek to restore calm, address grievances, and rebuild trust between the government and its citizens.


Story by 
Anthony Juma.