Three killed in Kenya protests over tax increase

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The number of people killed in protests in Kenya rose to three on Saturday, a hospital official and two police officers told AFP, after opposition leader Raila Odinga urged Kenyans to take to the streets against tax hikes.

Police on Friday fired tear gas in the capital Nairobi, targeting Odinga’s convoy, and took similar steps against demonstrations in the cities of Mombasa and Kisumu.

“We had another death at the casualty now bringing the number of deaths to two as a result of demonstrations yesterday,” said George Rae, CEO of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga hospital in Kisumu, an opposition stronghold on Lake Victoria.

Two police officers speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity said a third man died in hospital in southwestern Migori county.

“It has been confirmed that the man taken to hospital with a gunshot wound in the head passed on,” one of the officers said by phone.

Another police officer confirmed the toll, saying “two fatalities were in Kisumu and one in Migori.”

On Saturday, police used tear gas on civil society representatives, including former chief justice Willy Mutunga, who were demanding the release of dozens of people taken into custody during the protests, campaigners said.

“It is not justified at all for police to hurl tear gas at us when we have come peacefully to seek the release of innocent activists detained in the cells since yesterday”, said advocate Lempaa Suyianka.

“Some of them were even injured and they require medical attention,” he told reporters.

  • ‘Police brutality’ –

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights on Saturday called for “a thorough investigation into all reported incidents of police brutality”, adding to the chorus of condemnation from rights groups including Amnesty International against “arbitrary arrests”.

“The acts of police brutality, including the use of excessive force resulting in injuries and the arrest and detention of peaceful demonstrators, are clear violations of… constitutional provisions,” the commission said in a statement.

Odinga’s spokesman Dennis Onyango told AFP on Saturday his Azimio alliance plans to hold “at least one (protest) every week” against the policies of President William Ruto’s government, with the next one expected on Wednesday.

The 78-year-old lost the August 2022 election to Ruto and has repeatedly denounced the poll as “stolen”.

Last week, Ruto signed into law a finance bill expected to generate more than $2.1 billion for the government’s depleted coffers and help repair the heavily-indebted economy.

The Finance Act provides for new taxes or increases on basic goods such as fuel and food and mobile money transfers, as well as a controversial levy on all tax-payers to fund a housing scheme.

The government says the taxes will help create jobs and reduce public borrowing.

The Nairobi high court last month suspended implementation of the legislation after a senator filed a case challenging its constitutional legality.

But Kenya’s energy regulator nevertheless announced a hike in pump prices after the doubling of VAT to 16 percent as stipulated in the law.

©️ Agence France-Presse

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