Part of Kenya’s parliament building on fire amid massive protests over new finance bill, 10 killed | VIDEO

Kenya protests
Image Source : REUTERS Thousands of people protest against Kenya’s new finance bill on Tuesday.

Nairobi: Thousands of protesters barged into the Kenyan Parliament in the capital Nairobi on Tuesday and a part of the building was seen ablaze, amid massive protests in the African country with angry protesters demanding legislators to vote against new taxes proposed in a controversial finance bill. 

The third round of protests took place as lawmakers vote on the finance bill that would introduce new taxes, including an eco-levy that would raise the price of goods like sanitary towels and diapers. A proposal to tax bread was removed after public outcry but demonstrators are still calling on Parliament not to pass the bill. At least three bodies outside the parliament complex were seen. 

The protesters managed to overwhelm the police to entire the parliament shortly after a vote on the bill. Lawmakers fled through a tunnel, but protesters allowed opposition legislators who voted against the bill to walk out of the besieged building. The office of the Nairobi governor, a member of the ruling party, was reportedly set ablaze. Police water cannons were being used to extinguish the fire.

India Tv - A police officer stands near a burning vehicle during a demonstration in Kenya.

Image Source : REUTERSA police officer stands near a burning vehicle during a demonstration in Kenya.

Police open fire on demonstrators

The violence prompted police to fire live ammunition at the angry demonstrators as the situation turned chaotic. At least ten protesters were killed and dozens wounded in the pandemonium as demonstrators chased law enforcement officers in an attempt to storm the compound. As the protesters entered the building, some of them were heard shouting, “We’re coming for every politician”.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission shared a video of officers shooting at protesters and said they would be held to account. Two people died in similar protests last week. “The world is watching your descent into tyranny! Your regime’s actions are an assault on democracy. All those involved in the shooting – actively or passively – must be held to account,” said the commission.

Prior to that, The Kenya Law Society President Faith Odhiambo said Tuesday that 50 Kenyans, including her personal assistant, had been “abducted” by people believed to be police officers. Some of those missing included those who were vocal in the demonstrations and were taken away from their homes, workplaces and public spaces, according to civil society groups. Parliament Speaker Moses Wetangula on Tuesday directed the inspector general of police to provide information on the whereabouts of those the opposition said were abducted by police.

Why are Kenyans protesting against the bill?

Parliament approved the finance bill, moving it through to a third reading by lawmakers. The next step is for the legislation to be sent to the president for signing. He can send it back to parliament if he has any objections. The protesters oppose tax rises in a country already reeling from a cost-of-living crisis, and many are also calling for President William Ruto to step down.

India Tv - Police stand during a demonstration against Kenya's proposed finance bill.

Image Source : REUTERSPolice stand during a demonstration against Kenya’s proposed finance bill.

“We want to shut down parliament and every MP should go down and resign,” protestor Davis Tafari, who was trying to enter parliament, told Reuters. “We will have a new government.” This came at a time when Ruto was caught between the competing demands of lenders such as the International Monetary Fund, which is urging the government to cut deficits to access more funding, and a population suffering from poverty.

Kenyans have been struggling to cope with several economic shocks caused by the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, two consecutive years of droughts and depreciation of the currency.

(with inputs from agencies)