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Kenya: Ruto issues warning against rallies over tax hike

The protests are backed by opposition leader Raila Odinga, with more demos expected next week. Hundreds have been arrested and several were killed, as the UN expresses concern about the use of force by authorities.

Kenyan President William Ruto Friday warned the opposition against organizing more protests next week, saying “they will not happen.”

Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s party had earlier in the day called for three more days of protests from June 19 against a Ruto-signed law that raises taxes.

In the latest round of protests earlier this week across the country, at least 10 people were killed, with police forcefully dispersing demonstrators in many places.

More than 50 children were sent to a medical clinic after they were caught in a cloud of tear gas at their school, the Associated Press news agency reported.

More than 300 people were also arrested in connection with Wednesday’s protests, the Interior Ministry said.

A spokesman for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said Friday it was “very concerned by the widespread violence, and allegations of unnecessary or disproportionate use of force, including the use of firearms by police during protests in Kenya.”

Odinga calls for protests against law that raises tax

Ruto beat Odinga in August 2022 election. Ruto pledged to be a champion for the poor, but his critics say the tax hikes would hurt already-struggling Kenyans.

Demonstrations have continued through the month, with Odinga calling on people to put pressure on Ruto’s government to repeal the law he signed last month.

National religious organizations on Friday also asked Ruto to roll back the law, warning that Kenyans face a level of hopelessness that “can easily inspire insurrection.”

Ruto warns against protests

Ruto told his supporters Friday that: “Elections ended August 9 last year. You cannot look for the leadership of this country using the blood of the citizens, the death of the citizens and the destruction of property.” 

“These demos will not happen. Listen to me carefully: you cannot use extrajudicial, extra-constitutional means to look for power in Kenya,” Ruto added.

Kenyan authorities have blamed the deaths on the protesters, some of whom have thrown rocks at police and vandalized public property.

Some Kenyans have described the new taxes as leaving them with the highest burden they’ve ever faced.

The finance bill increased value-added tax on petroleum from 8% to 16%, boosted a business turnover tax from 1% to 3% and created a new 1.5% housing tax for salaried workers.

Source: DW