Saturday, July 20

Kenyan Parliament approves tax law amid controversy

Kenyan lawmakers passed a controversial finance law on Tuesday, sparking outrage from thousands of people who marched on Parliament in Nairobi. Demonstrators pleaded with the government to reject the proposed tax increases, arguing they would disproportionately burden ordinary Kenyans.

Clashes broke out when police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Footage captured by international media showed the chaotic scene, including the use of force against demonstrators. Reports of human rights activists being kidnapped ahead of the protest also emerged, raising concerns about freedom of expression.

The proposed legislation has set off a firestorm across Kenya. The East African nation, known for its relative stability, witnessed days of nationwide demonstrations. Human rights groups have documented at least one death and hundreds of injuries during last week’s protests. In particular, a prominent figure, Auma Obama, half-sister of former US president Barack Obama, was allegedly involved in the dispersion of tear gas.

President William Ruto’s administration introduced the bill in May to address the country’s ballooning debt and generate revenue. However, critics fiercely oppose the bill, citing the inclusion of punitive taxes on essential goods and services that would increase the cost of living.

The legislation now awaits President Ruto’s signature within the next two weeks. He can pass it into law or return it to Parliament for review.

Kenyans highlight what they perceive as extravagant public spending and a lack of transparency in the management of public funds. The public outcry extends to President Ruto’s perceived departure from campaign promises to prioritize the well-being of low-income Kenyans. Opposition lawmakers vehemently rejected the bill in its entirety.

Despite some concessions, such as the removal of taxes on bread and cooking oil, protesters remain resolute in their demands. Many shared their experiences of intimidation and threats that led to the demonstrations, vowing to remain resolute in their fight against the law.