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Kenyan parliament pushes through tax bill amidst uproar

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Kenyan lawmakers approved a contentious financial bill on Tuesday, sparking outrage from thousands who marched on Parliament in Nairobi. Protesters pleaded with the government to reject the proposed tax hikes, arguing they would disproportionately burden ordinary Kenyans.

Clashes erupted as police deployed tear gas to disperse the crowds. Footage captured by international media outlets showed the chaotic scene, including the use of force against demonstrators. Reports also surfaced of human rights activists being abducted ahead of the protest, raising concerns about freedom of expression.

The proposed legislation has ignited a firestorm across Kenya. The East African nation, known for its relative stability, has witnessed days of nationwide demonstrations. Rights groups documented at least one fatality and hundreds injured during protests last week. Notably, a prominent figure, Auma Obama, half-sister of former US President Barack Obama, was reportedly caught in the tear gas dispersal.

President William Ruto’s administration introduced the bill in May to address the country’s ballooning debt and generate revenue. However, critics fiercely oppose the bill, citing its inclusion of punitive taxes on essential goods and services that would exacerbate the cost of living.

The legislation now awaits President Ruto’s signature within the next two weeks. He can either enact it into law or return it to Parliament for revisions.

Kenyans point to what they perceive as extravagant government spending and a lack of transparency in managing public funds. The public outcry extends to President Ruto’s perceived departure from campaign promises to prioritize the well-being of low-income Kenyans. Opposition lawmakers vehemently rejected the bill in its entirety.

Despite some concessions, such as the removal of taxes on bread and cooking oil, protesters remain resolute in their demands. Many shared experiences of intimidation and threats leading up to the demonstrations, vowing to remain steadfast in their fight against the bill.

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