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Fire breaks out at Kenya’s Parliament complex, protester shot dead

Nairobi:

Kenyan police shot dead a protester near Parliament on Tuesday, a human rights group reported, and AFP journalists saw three people lying motionless on the ground as a crowd opposing the proposed tax increase broke up. the barricades to enter the parliamentary complex where a fire broke out.

Demonstrations led mainly by Generation Z, which began last week, caught the government off guard, with President William Ruto saying over the weekend that he was ready to talk to protesters.

But tensions rose sharply on Tuesday afternoon, when crowds began throwing stones at police and pushing through barricades, forcing their way into the parliament complex, which was closed by police in riot gear.

Police fired on a crowd gathering outside the parliament building, where lawmakers had been debating a controversial bill that included proposed tax increases.

“Police shot at four protesters, as witnessed by KHRC, killing one,” the Kenya Human Rights Commission said in a statement on X.

Shortly before, Irungu Houghton, executive director of Amnesty International Kenya, told AFP that “human rights monitors are now reporting the increasing use of live ammunition by the national police in the capital, Nairobi.”

“It is now urgent that medical officials can treat the many injured,” he said.

Anger over the cost-of-living crisis escalated into demonstrations across the country last week, with protesters calling for the finance bill to be scrapped. People are angry about the rising prices of bread and diapers.

Despite a heavy police presence, thousands of protesters had earlier marched through Nairobi’s business district, pushing back against barricades as they headed towards parliament.

According to AFP journalists, police, equipped with riot gear, fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd.

As protesters gained ground in their advance toward parliament, many livestreamed the action later in the day while singing, chanting and beating drums.

Crowds also marched in the port city of Mombasa, the opposition stronghold of Kisumu and Ruto’s stronghold in Eldoret, footage from Kenyan television channels showed.

– ‘At a crossroads’ –

The Independent Police Oversight Authority and human rights groups said two people had died following Thursday’s demonstrations in Nairobi.

Several organizations, including Amnesty International Kenya, said at least 200 people were injured in last week’s protests in Nairobi.

Amnesty’s Kenya chapter published on Tuesday X that “the pattern of policing protests is rapidly deteriorating,” urging the government to respect protesters’ right to assembly.

On Monday, before the protests, the human rights body said Kenya was “at a crossroads.”

“Despite mass arrests and injuries, protests have continued to grow, emphasizing widespread public discontent,” he said, warning that “escalation of force could lead to more deaths and legal repercussions.”

Human rights defenders have accused authorities of kidnapping protesters in violation of the law.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission said the abductions mostly occurred at night and were “carried out by plainclothes police officers and unmarked cars,” and called for the “unconditional release of all abductees.”

Police did not respond to AFP requests for comment on the allegations.

Protesters have also deployed unconventional tactics, including asking bars to stop playing music at midnight on the weekend as partygoers erupted into chants of “Ruto must go” and “Reject the finance bill.” .

His protests have won support from some Anglican and Catholic church leaders.

– Mountain of debt –

The cash-strapped government agreed last week to reverse several tax increases.

But he still intends to raise other taxes, saying they are necessary to fill state coffers and reduce dependence on foreign borrowing.

Kenya has a huge mountain of debt whose servicing costs have skyrocketed due to a drop in the value of the local currency over the past two years, making interest payments on foreign currency loans more expensive.

The tax increases will increase pressure on Kenyans as well-paid jobs will remain out of reach for many young people.

After the government agreed to remove taxes on the purchase of bread, car ownership, and financial and mobile services, the Treasury warned of a budget deficit of 200 billion shillings ($1.56 billion).

The government now aims to target an increase in fuel prices and export taxes to fill the void left by the changes, a move that critics say will make life more expensive in a country already saddled with high inflation.

Kenya has one of the most dynamic economies in East Africa, but a third of its 52 million people live in poverty.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated channel.)

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