Ruto Withdraws Controversial Bill Amid Deadly Protests in Nairobi

By Joke Kujenya

VIOLENT PROTESTS in Nairobi have forced President William Ruto to withdraw a controversial finance bill, following the deaths of 22 people.

The bill, which proposed steep tax hikes, faced fierce opposition from citizens already burdened by the high cost of living had sparked wild unrest that saw thousands of demonstrators storm the parliament, resulting in the largest assault on the government in decades and part of the parliamentary building being set on fire.

Acknowledging the public outcry, President Ruto announced the withdrawal of the finance bill in a televised address.

“Listening keenly to the people of Kenya who have said loudly that they want nothing to do with this finance bill 2024, I concede. And therefore, I will not sign the 2024 finance bill, and it shall subsequently be withdrawn,” he declared.

Tuesday’s protests escalated to such a degree that the government deployed military forces. Ruto labeled the actions of the protesters as “treasonous” but also offered condolences for the lives lost, describing the situation as “unfortunate.”

He reported that 214 people involved in various clashes were hospitalized, with 95 treated and released. The Kenya National Human Rights Commission confirmed the death toll and reported 50 arrests.

The unrest in Nairobi, a city that serves as a regional hub and houses a United Nations complex, has spotlighted deep-seated frustrations among Kenyans.

Economic inequality and longstanding grievances over state corruption have fueled discontent, particularly among the youth. Many young Kenyans, who had initially supported Ruto’s campaign, now feel betrayed by the government’s policies.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga condemned the use of force against protesters and called for dialogue, asserting that Kenya’s constitution had been effectively suspended. “Kenya cannot afford to kill its children just because the children are asking for food, jobs, and a listening ear,” Odinga stated.

The violence saw soldiers patrolling alongside police, who faced accusations of using excessive force.

Authorities admitted that police fired over 700 blanks to disperse protesters in the Nairobi suburb of Githurai overnight, with videos of the gunfire widely shared online, adding that as Kenya grapples with the aftermath of these protests, the government’s next steps remain uncertain.

They noted that the withdrawal of the finance bill marks a significant concession from President Ruto, but the underlying issues driving the unrest, including economic hardship and political disillusionment, persist.

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