Several shots fired, protesters storm Kenya parliament after lawmakers approve tax hikes

Several people were shot outside Kenya’s parliament on Tuesday as police clashed with protesters who broke into the complex after lawmakers approved highly controversial tax increases.

Police fired live ammunition after tear gas and rubber bullets failed to disperse thousands of people who had gathered to protest tax increases.

Witnesses told VOA they saw several bodies on the ground outside the building, and news reports say at least five people died.

Meanwhile, fires broke out in parliament buildings after protesters overran police barricades. At least two vehicles in the area were set on fire and burned.

Protesters had demonstrated peacefully near parliament in Nairobi for most of the day to demand that lawmakers vote against the 2024 Finance Bill. However, the bill was passed by 195 votes to 106.

One protester told VOA that he does not agree with what the government is trying to do and that he had to be there to make his voice heard.

“We are protesting against the impunity of the government. You see, the finance bill is not something that is going to allow Kenyans to live in peace,” he said. “And as you have seen, we have tried to talk to the government, but they are imposing it on us. So, as a young man, I decided to come here and protest and tell them that the government is made by the people, that we are the people and that we want the government listens to us.”

Kelvin Moses works near where the protests were taking place. He told VOA that the protests have affected many businesses in the central business district.

“Business is really down, traffic and customer flow has been really affected,” Moses said. “You can see that in the CBD (Central Business District) there are very few shops open. We hope this matter can be resolved as soon as possible because we, business owners, are feeling the pressure.”

After the vote, some lawmakers fled the parliament complex as hundreds of protesters broke through police barricades and ran inside.

Kenya has seen a growing youth-led movement in recent days against tax increases, which the government says are necessary to continue paying the interest on its high sovereign debt.

Lawmakers made some compromises in the tax bill, abandoning proposed increases on bread, car ownership and financial transactions.

But that wasn’t enough for protesters who said the cost of living is already too high.

The protests have largely been led by young people. However, Kenyan lawyer Javas Bigambo told VOA that opposition to the finance bill is not limited to just the youth.

“It has been assumed that the protests are simply a creation of Generation Z or the country’s youth, forgetting that these protests, however organic, have continued to receive overwhelming support from civil society organisations, farmers, manufacturers, the private sector and religious leaders,” Bigambo said.

The Finance Bill still needs President William Ruto’s signature to become law.

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