KENYA: On Wednesday, in Kenya’s major cities, clashes erupted between protesters and the police as a three-day demonstration against the rising cost of living and increased taxes commenced. The protesters threw rocks at the police, who responded by firing tear gas.
In Nairobi’s Kibera neighbourhood, Kenya, the entrance was guarded by dozens of riot police and two water cannon trucks, while clashes between protesters and security forces ensued as tyres were set on fire.
Schools in Nairobi, the capital; Mombasa, the port city; and Kisumu, the third-largest city in the country, have been closed. Many businesses in Nairobi’s city centre are closed, and the area appears mostly deserted. Meanwhile, police checkpoints have been set up on roads leading to State House, the official residence of President William Ruto.
According to a private sector lobby group, the economy has suffered losses exceeding $20 million per day due to this year’s protests. Additionally, civic leaders have expressed concerns about occasional incidents of apparent violence based on ethnicity.
Tribal alliances frequently define Kenyan politics, and ethnic fighting that followed contested elections in 2007 and 2017 resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people. Political observers claim that because Ruto has substantial backing from all ethnic groups, the most recent protests are unlikely to degenerate into widespread ethnic bloodshed.
A Nigerian newspaper also reported the arrests of alleged protesters in Homa Bay in the country’s west, according to a TV station under the control of Raila Odinga’s Azimio La Umoja opposition party.
In the town of Migori, situated in the western region, two individuals sought medical treatment for gunshot wounds they had sustained during ongoing protests, as reported by the media.
When the protesters attempt to uphold the same constitution through peaceful demonstrations, this administration violates it by treating them brutally, according to a demonstrator, who spoke to the UK media.
In two rounds of protests earlier this month, police shot tear gas and, in some cases, live ammunition at the masses, resulting in at least 15 fatalities and hundreds of arrests.
The rallies were organised by Azimio in response to tax increases Ruto’s administration imposed last month.
Ruto was elected in August of last year with a promise to protect the rights of the underprivileged, but throughout his term in office, the cost of necessities has increased.
The government claims that the charges on fuel and housing, which are anticipated to earn an additional 200 billion shillings ($1.4 billion) year, are necessary to cope with the rising cost of debt repayments and to fund measures to create jobs.
Churches and civil rights organisations have urged Ruto and Odinga to talk out their differences and end the demonstrations.
At a press conference, Archbishop Martin Kivuva, the head of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, “We have appealed to Azimio La Umoja to seek (an) alternative strategy that would not hold the entire country hostage and lend itself to violence and destruction.”
A member of the bishops’ conference named Archbishop Anthony Muheria also stated that the high court-suspended tax increases ought to be reversed.