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‘Part of parliament burned’: What sparked violent protests in Kenya?

Mass chaos engulfed Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, as police fired tear gas and water cannon to control crowds who took to the streets to protest proposed tax increases.

In the deadly riot that has rocked Kenya, five people were shot dead and 31 injured, several NGOs, including Amnesty Kenya, said in a joint statement.

Protesters had been largely peaceful over the past week, but clashes broke out in Nairobi on Tuesday, with crowds throwing stones at police, breaking barricades and forcing their way into Parliament grounds.

The agitations escalated to the point that thousands of protesters, who entered the premises, set part of the parliament building on fire, forcing lawmakers to evacuate it. In retaliation, Kenyan police fired fire and rubber bullets.

Which led to deadly clashes

The anti-tax protest was called over the finance bill, which has become a point of contention between protesters and the government.

The bill seeks to raise an additional $2.7 billion in taxes as part of an effort to eliminate the heavy burden of debt, in which interest payments alone consume 37 percent of annual income.

The government has already made some concessions, promising amendments to the bill to remove proposed new taxes on bread, cooking oil, car ownership and financial transactions.

However, the concessions have failed to appease protesters, who are demanding that the entire bill be scrapped. The agitators also called on William Ruto to resign as president.

The protest, largely peaceful in recent days, turned violent on Tuesday after people marched en masse through the streets of the coastal city of Mombasa, a port city on Lake Victoria, and other towns. Discontent with the bill has become a headache for the government that has failed to convince its citizens.

“This is my first protest,” Sonia, 37, a digital marketing specialist, told Reuters news agency.

“The other years I didn’t really feel the need to come out, but (taxes) are really affecting my business. Most of the time when Kenyans protest, it’s violent, but no one is looting. The police are the ones who beat us for no reason,” he said.

Kenyan president vows to act

President William Ruto has vowed to take tough action against “violence and lawlessness” after the tax hike protest descended into chaos.

“We will provide a full, effective and swift response to today’s treacherous events,” Ruto said, according to the AFP news agency. He said the protests were “hijacked by dangerous people.”

It was inconceivable that “criminals posing as peaceful protesters could sow terror against the people, their elected representatives and the institutions established under our constitution and expect to go unpunished,” Ruto added.

“I hereby put on alert the planners, financiers, orchestrators, accomplices of violence and anarchy,” he said.

The government later deployed the military to support beleaguered police officers as they descended into fatal clashes.

India issues advisory for Indians in Kenya
Amid angry protests in the African nation, India on Tuesday issued an advisory to its citizens in Kenya.

The Indian Embassy in Kenya advised Indian citizens to “exercise utmost caution” and avoid areas affected by protests or violence until the situation improves.

The Indian Mission also advised Indian citizens to follow local news and the Mission website and social media for updates.

“In view of the prevailing tense situation, all Indians in Kenya are advised to exercise utmost caution, restrict non-essential movements and avoid areas affected by protests and violence until the situation clears up,” the Embassy said. .

UN chief expresses ‘deep concern’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “deeply concerned” about the violence in Kenya, his spokesman said on Tuesday, describing him as “saddened” by reports of deaths.

“(The) Secretary-General is obviously deeply concerned by the reported violence we have seen related to these protests and street demonstrations,” spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said at a briefing. “He is very saddened by reports of deaths and injuries, including journalists and medical staff.”

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