Kenyan President Backs Down on Tax Bill Because of Protests

Kenyan protest at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Photo Imtiaz Popat

Kenya’s president William Ruto said he would not sign a finance bill including the hikes a day after violent clashes between police and protesters at the national assembly across the country leaving many dead and wounded.

“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 And therefore, I will not sign the 2024 finance bill, and it shall subsequently be withdrawn,” he said in a televised address.

It may see off the immediate threat of more unrest but leaves Ruto still caught between the competing demands of his hard-pressed citizens and of lenders such as the IMF and World Bank – which is urging the government to cut deficits to obtain more financing.

The move will be seen as a major victory for a week-old protest movement that grew from online condemnations of tax increases into mass rallies demanding a political overhaul, in the most serious crisis of Ruto’s two-year-old presidency.

However, protests continue globally blaming Ruto for ordering the police to open fire on unarmed protestors including activists, doctors and journalists demanding accountability for Ruto’s actions, justice for the victims who lost their lives and release of all abducted prisoners.

The Nation newspaper documented protests in at least 35 of Kenya’s 47 counties, from big cities to rural areas – even in Ruto’s hometown of Eldoret in his ethnic Kalenjin heartland.

Protestors at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Photo Imtiaz Popat

Protesters had earlier vowed to keep up their demonstrations in messages on social media using the hashtag #tupatanethursday, or “see you on Thursday” in a mix of Swahili and English.

Posts on social media had urged people to occupy State House, the president’s office and residence and the local offices of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) though it was not immediately clear if the calls came from individuals or a broader movement.

Thousands took to the streets of Nairobi and several other cities during two days of protests last week as an online movement gathered momentum.

The protests began as an online outpouring of anger by young, tech-savvy Kenyans at proposed taxes on bread and diapers and evolved into a nationwide movement calling for the scrapping of the entire finance bill including the taxes.