At least 200 injured, 100 arrested in Kenya tax protests: Rights groups

Local media reported an unidentified man died from a gunshot wound to his thigh during riot police crackdown in Nairobi.

A demonstrator throws back a tear gas canister at police officers during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill, in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 20, 2024 [Andrew Kasuku/AP Photo]

At least 200 people were injured and more than 100 arrested across Kenya in nationwide protests against government tax hike plans, rights groups have said.

Five groups, including Amnesty International, said late on Thursday in a joint statement that at least 105 protesters had been arrested in a violent crackdown by riot police that included the use of tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets.

In the capital, Nairobi, at least 200 people were injured, with the groups reporting “soft tissue injuries and inhalation of tear gas”, with six “hit by cars while running away from police officers” and five casualties from rubber bullets.

Spent cartridges at the scene implied the use of live rounds, they said.

Local media reported that an unidentified person died at the Bliss Medical Centre in Nairobi from a gunshot wound to his thigh sustained during the protest. The details tallied with a police report that said a 29-year-old man died during treatment for a wound on his thigh at the same hospital on Thursday night.

Police officers fire tear gas canisters during a protest over proposed tax hikes in Nairobi, Kenya
Police officers fire tear gas canisters during protests over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill being debated in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 20, 2024 [Andrew Kasuku/AP Photo]

“We continue to urge the National Police Service to desist from the use of excessive force, intimidation and arbitrary and unlawful arrests of Kenyans,” said the groups, which also included the Kenya Medical Association, the Law Society of Kenya, the Defenders Coalition and the Independent Medical Legal Unit.

Protests against the budget proposals, which are aimed at raising $2.7bn in additional taxes, widened Thursday in 19 of Kenya’s 47 counties. Nairobi’s central business district was brought to a standstill as horse-riding riot police threw tear gas canisters and opened water cannon on demonstrators.

The protesters, who began their demonstrations on Tuesday, are demanding that lawmakers vote against the legislation, which is expected to be burdensome for salaried Kenyans, entrepreneurs and consumers. They say the administration of President William Ruto has gone back on its pledge to reduce taxes and lower the cost of living.

The new taxes would include a 2.75 percent levy on income for the national medical insurance plan, as well as increased taxes on vegetable oil and fuel, which would raise the cost of production and trickle down to the consumer.

Proposals to introduce a 16 percent value-added tax on bread and a new annual tax on motor vehicles were removed from the legislation on Tuesday after a meeting between Ruto and governing party members.

But those who demonstrated Thursday said the amendments did not go far enough and that they want legislators to totally reject the budget legislation.

Despite the protests, parliamentarians passed the finance bill in its second reading on Thursday. There will be a third and final reading of the contentious measure next week. The final version must pass before June 30.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies