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02/07/24 | 9:08 am | Kenya

Kenya Anti-Tax Protest: 39 killed and over 360 injured, human rights group claims

At least 39 people have lost their lives in recent anti-government protests in Kenya against the new tax hike, reported Al Jazeera, citing the national rights watchdog. The activists have geared up for a new round of protests this week in Kenya.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) announced the toll on Monday, which is almost double the figure previously disclosed by the government for those killed while demonstrating against a raft of unpopular tax increases that have now been withdrawn.

KNCHR records further indicated that 39 people have died and 361 have been injured “in relation to the protests countrywide”, the state-funded body said in a statement, adding that the figures covered the period from June 18 to July 1, reported Al Jazeera.

It further stated that there had been 32 cases of “enforced or involuntary disappearances” and 627 arrests of protesters. Moreover, largely peaceful anti-tax rallies, led by mostly young Gen-Z protesters, descended into shocking scenes of deadly violence last Tuesday when lawmakers passed the contentious legislation.

Later, following the announcement of the vote, crowds ransacked the parliament complex in central Nairobi and it was partly set ablaze as police fired live bullets at protesters, as reported by Al Jazeera.

Notably, it is the most serious crisis to be confronted by the government of President William Ruto since he took office in September 2022 following a deeply divisive election in a nation often considered a beacon of stability in a turbulent region.

Ruto, in a televised interview on Sunday, said that 19 people had died in the protests, but insisted that he did not have “blood on my hands” and pledged an investigation into the deaths.

The KNCHR “continues to condemn in the strongest terms possible the unwarranted violence and force that was inflicted on protesters, medical personnel, lawyers, journalists and on safe spaces such as churches, medical emergency centres and ambulances,” the rights body said.

“We maintain that the force used against the protesters was excessive and disproportionate,” it added. The watchdog also said that it “strongly condemns the violent and shocking acts of lawlessness that were exhibited by some of the protesters” including the parliament and other government buildings.

Moreover, fresh protests have been called by activists beginning Tuesday despite last week, when Ruto announced that he would not sign into law the bill containing the tax hikes. Additionally, leaflets have been posted on social media with the hashtags “Occupy Everywhere”, “Ruto must go” and “Reject Budgeted Corruption”.

India has also issued an advisory for its nationals in Kenya, as protests against a tax hike turned violent, causing a rampage in the African nation.

The Indian Embassy in Kenya earlier advised the Indian nationals there to “exercise utmost caution, restrict non-essential movement and avoid the areas affected by the protests and violence till the situation clears up.”

“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. (ANI)

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