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Kenyan government scraps elements of controversial tax bill amid protests

 The Kenyan government has scrapped some tax increases that were initially included in its controversial finance bill after people took to the streets in protest on Tuesday.

Among the scrapped tax hikes was a proposed 16% value-added tax (VAT) on bread, as well as proposed taxes on motor vehicles, vegetable oil and mobile money transfers, according to Kuria Kimani, the chairman of Kenya’s Finance and National Planning Committee.

“When we started the public participation in the finance bill of 2024, we did make a promise that public participation would not be an exercise in futility. We have listened to the view of Kenyans,” Kimani said in a speech outside the State House in Nairobi.

Changes to the finance bill were driven by a “need to protect Kenyans from increased cost of living,” Kimani said.

Kenyan police officers walk away from a street covered in tear gas during a demonstration against tax hikes in downtown Nairobi on June 18, 2024.

Kenya’s President William Ruto said in a speech at the State House he was “very happy” that the public had interrogated the proposed finance bill and “recommended through public participation their feelings, their ideas, their suggestions.”

“The fact that the executive is working, the legislature is working, the judiciary is working, institutions are working in Kenya, that is a very proud country and I want to belong to Kenya,” Ruto added.

People had taken to the streets to protest the controversial bill, with more than 210 people arrested during a “peaceful assembly” outside parliament buildings in the capital, according to Defenders Coalition, a human rights organization in Kenya.

The organization condemned Kenya’s National Police for attempting to “silence dissent through excessive force and intimidation.”

Police teargassed people outside the Central Police Station, as demonstrators gathered there to seek the release of the arrested protesters, the president of Kenya’s Law Society Council Faith Odhiambo said in a post on social media.


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