Kenyan president offers talks to protesters on tax bill

Kenyan president offers talks to protesters on tax bill

President William Ruto says he is open to dialogue on Finance Bill 2024, as protest against tax hikes continues for 6th consecutive day

By Andrew Wasike

NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) – Protests against Kenya's proposed high taxes, which continued across the country for the sixth consecutive day, forced President William Ruto on Sunday to express his readiness to engage in dialogue with demonstrators led by a youth group.

Ruto hailed the youth for speaking out on political issues that affect them while attending a church service in Nyahururu, central Kenya.

The president said, “Our young people have stepped forward to engage in the affairs of their country.

“They have done a democratic duty to stand and be recognized, and I want to tell you that we are going to have a conversation with you to identify your concerns and work together as a nation.”

Kenyan youth, particularly those from Generation Z, have been leading protests against the proposed Finance Bill 2024 through digital platforms known as "Occupy Parliament," as well as demonstrations, the largest of which took place in all major cities and towns across the country on Tuesday.

Anadolu contacted some of their vocal Generation Z members to respond to the president's offer of negotiations, which they declined due to fear of repercussions, as several youth leaders have been arrested in the last six days in various cities.

The protests are primarily driven by concerns over proposed tax hikes and economic policies that many believe disproportionately affect the younger population.

Once dismissed as "keyboard warriors," dozens of young Kenyans marched around the Central Business District (CBD) in Nairobi on Sunday, carrying placards to express their opposition to the proposed taxes.

The protest was witnessed across the East African country where pockets of demonstrations were held.

Youth have been actively disrupting events attended by members of parliament who voted to support the controversial bill.

Thousands of Kenyans have taken to the streets since Tuesday to demand that the controversial bill be withdrawn.

The demonstrations were mostly peaceful, but there were reports of police using tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds, resulting in casualties and arrests.

Two people were shot dead by police, and more than 200 were injured, with human rights organizations expressing concern about law enforcement's use of force and calling for an investigation into alleged violations.

The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), which oversees police actions in Kenya, is investigating deaths caused by shootings during protests.

Several organizers of the protests have been arrested by police, including well-known comedian Eric Omondi, who was detained outside parliament on Friday while protesting and calling out legislators who supported the bill. Billy Samani, a standup comedian, was also arrested on Friday but released on Sunday.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have also released statements defending the right to protest and condemning the killings.

The Kenyan Parliament passed the Finance Bill 2024 last week, with 204 members voting in favor and 105 against.

The bill is scheduled to move to the committee stage for amendments on coming Tuesday, which includes other tax increases aimed at raising more than $2.7 billion in revenue for the government's ambitious Ksh 4.2 trillion (approximately $30.6 billion) 2024-25 budget.

In response, the youth have vowed to encamp outside parliament in the thousands to protest, according to a poster widely circulated online in Kenya, as organizers said on Tuesday that they will "occupy parliament and total shutdown Kenya... all parents keep your children at home in solidarity."

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