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Kenyan protesters vowed on Wednesday to keep up their demonstrations against new tax hikes, a day after police opened fire on crowds trying to storm parliament, leaving at least eight people dead and scores wounded.

As heavily armed officers patrolled the streets of the capital Nairobi, supporters of the week-old protest movement took to X, using the hashtag #tutanethursday, or “see you on Thursday” in a mix of Swahili and English.

An online outpouring of anger over tax increases has swelled into a nationwide protest movement calling for a political overhaul, in the most serious crisis of President William Ruto’s two-year-old presidency.

Many social media users focused on Ruto’s speech after the clashes, in which he said the attack on parliament was the work of “criminals pretending to be peaceful protesters”.

“Good morning fellow CRIMINALS Tupatane Thursday To do what CRIMINALS do,” one X user posted.

Nairobi’s main public mortuary received the bodies of six people killed in Tuesday’s protests, a police officer posted there said. Another two bodies and 160 people with injuries came into the Kenyatta National Hospital, two health officials said.

Ruto said in his televised address to the nation late on Tuesday that the debate about the tax measures – which lawmakers passed minutes before parliament was breached – had been “hijacked by dangerous people”.

The government ordered the army deployed to help the police deal with a “security emergency”, though there were no reports of troops on the streets of Nairobi on Wednesday.

Last week, protesters had circulated a schedule that called for the occupation of parliament on Tuesday and the occupation of State House, the president’s office and residence, on Thursday.

Protester Wellington Ogolla said he would head back out onto the streets. “It’s our right to demonstrate … We are just expressing ourselves,” he said as he walked through downtown Nairobi, where the smell of tear gas lingered in the air.

Lawmakers removed some tax hikes from the final version of the finance bill, including ones on bread and cooking oil, but inserted others in an effort to avoid a budget gap.

Protesters say they want the whole bill scrapped, and many are now demanding that Ruto resign.

He won election almost two years ago on a platform of championing Kenya’s working poor but has been caught between the competing demands of lenders such as the International Monetary Fund – which is urging the government to cut deficits to obtain more funding – and a hard-pressed population.

The protest movement, which has no formal leadership and has primarily organised on social media platforms, turned out thousands of supporters in dozens of towns and cities on Tuesday.


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Last Updated: 19th Jul 2024