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President of Kenya backs off tax increases following violent protests


William Ruto, the president of Kenya, backed down on Wednesday from his plans to raise taxes in response to protesters who had invaded parliament, started nationwide rallies, and threatened to take further action this week.

In the most critical crisis of Ruto’s two-year administration, the move will be viewed as a huge success for a week-old, youth-led protest movement that evolved from online condemnations of tax rises into large-scale marches seeking a political overhaul.

On social media, however, some protestors said that they would still hold the Thursday march despite Ruto’s backpedalling, with many of them restating their calls for his resignation.

A day after violence between police and protestors at the assembly and across the country left at least 23 people dead and several others wounded, according to doctors, Ruto declared he would not sign a finance measure that includes the tax increases.

“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 And therefore, I will not sign the 2024 finance bill, and it shall subsequently be withdrawn,” he said in a televised address with lawmakers, some clapping, seated behind him.

Vice President Rigathi Gachagua condemned the intelligence services for providing the administration with subpar advice and urged the youth to end the protests in order to prevent any more deaths and property damage.

“There would have been no mayhem, but they slept on the job,” Gachagua said in a speech, calling on the head of the National Intelligence Service to resign.

Defiant demonstrators continued to demand that Ruto resign and vowed to take more action in the streets.

Prominent social justice campaigner Boniface Mwangi demanded a “1-million-people march” during the demonstrations.

“The arrogance is gone, but the lies are still there,” he said on social media platform X. “Yesterday they unleashed goons and police to kill peaceful protesters. That will not stop us.”

(Source: Reuters)

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