Police clash with protesters in Kenya as the military patrols the streets

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan police on Thursday clashed with protesters in Nairobi before planned protests against a contentious finance bill, despite the president’s decision not to sign it after the plans sparked deadly chaos in the capital and saw protesters storming and burning part of the parliament building.

Protesters who said last week that they would march to the State House on Thursday say they still don’t trust President William Ruto, who has said the tax hikes would be withdrawn and budget cuts would be made.

Police have hurled tear gas canisters at groups of protesters attempting to congregate within the central business district. The military has been patrolling the city despite a Wednesday court order that suspended their deployment to support police during the protests.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua on Wednesday urged the young protesters to call off planned protests and give dialogue a chance.

The leaderless movement began online with young people demanding that legislators reject the proposed tax hikes. It later morphed into calls for the president’s resignation after the bill was passed. On Tuesday, thousands of protesters stormed Kenya’s parliament, burning parts of the building and sending lawmakers fleeing. Police opened fire and at least 22 people were reportedly killed in the chaos.

Activists were divided about the agenda of Thursday’s protests. One protester, Boniface Mwangi, urged others to peacefully march to parliament road where protesters were killed to pay their respects. “Invasion of the State House isn’t a solution,” he wrote on X.

But Francis Gaitho, one of the many activists mobilizing for the protests online, insisted that young people should march to the State House.

Activists and others warned that the stakes were higher than in past protests, because Ruto vowed on Tuesday to quash unrest “at whatever cost”.

Analyst Javas Bigambo told The Associated Press that the discontent is partly because Kenyans don’t trust the president to implement the austerity measures he announced on Wednesday.

“Kenyans still have a problem with the economy and wastage in government,” he said.

Bigambo said Ruto’s U-turn should be a “lesson on humility” as his initial reaction on Tuesday was “not stately and full of emotions” further agitating protesters. He said the government should win back the populace by opening dialogue channels and ensuring a consultative budgeting process.

Businesspeople in Nairobi were standing guard outside their shops on Thursday to prevent looting and vandalism, which took place during Tuesday’s protests.

Major roads leading to key government buildings, including parliament, have been blocked.

Outside Nairobi, protests have been reported in Mombasa, Kisumu, Migori and other major towns.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday spoke with Ruto, thanking him for taking steps to reduce tensions.

“The Secretary underscored the importance of security forces demonstrating restraint and refraining from violence and encouraged prompt investigations into allegations of human rights abuses,” a statement read.

Ruto has been embraced by Washington as a welcome, stable partner in Africa, while frustration grows elsewhere on the continent with the U.S. and other Western powers.

In May, Ruto went to Washington in the first state visit by an African leader in 16 years. On Tuesday, as the protests erupted, the U.S. designated Kenya as its first major non-NATO ally in sub-Saharan Africa, a largely symbolic act but one highlighting their security partnership. Also Tuesday, hundreds of Kenyan police deployed to lead a multinational force against gangs in Haiti, an initiative that brought thanks from U.S. President Joe Biden.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top