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Several killed as anti-tax protesters storm Kenya's parliament

Protesters scatter as Kenya police spray a water canon at them during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill in downtown Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, June. 25, 2024.
Protesters scatter as Kenya police spray a water canon at them during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill in downtown Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, June. 25, 2024. Copyright Brian Inganga/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Brian Inganga/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
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Prices for fuel, food and other necessities have soared in the country, where President Ruto has vowed to quash unrest.

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Several people were killed when thousands of protesters stormed Kenya’s parliament Tuesday to protest against government tax proposals.

Part of the building was burned, sending lawmakers fleeing and drawing fire from police amid unrest that the president vowed to quash.

It was the most direct assault on the government in decades. At least three bodies were seen outside the complex where police had opened fire, and medical workers reported five people killed.

Clashes spread to other cities. There was no immediate word on arrests.

“Today’s events mark a critical turning point on how we respond to threats to our national security,” President William Ruto said, calling the events “treasonous" and vowing to quash the unrest “at whatever cost.”

Kenya's defence minister said the military had been deployed to support police during the “security emergency” and “breaching of critical infrastructure.”

Frustration over cost of living

Protesters demanded that legislators vote against a finance bill imposing new taxes on East Africa's economic hub, where frustrations over the high cost of living have simmered.

Youths who had voted Ruto into power for his promises of economic relief took to the streets to object to the pain of reforms.

Lawmakers passed the bill before fleeing through a tunnel as protesters outmanoeuvred police and poured in. The fire at the building was later put out.

The Kenya Medical Association said in a statement that at least five people were fatally shot while trying to treat wounded people at the scene. It said more than 30 people were wounded, and at least 13 with live bullets.

Police fired live ammunition and threw tear gas canisters at protesters who sought treatment at a medical tent at a nearby church. Elsewhere in town, Kenyatta National Hospital said it received 45 casualties.

Internet service in the country noticeably slowed in what NetBlocks called a “major disruption," and at least one broadcaster issued a statement saying that “we have received threats from the authorities to shut us down."

Ruto had been outside Nairobi attending an African Union retreat. He is expected to sign the finance bill into law this week. He has two weeks to act but faces calls from religious and other leaders to think again.

The nearby office of the Nairobi governor, a member of the ruling party, was also briefly on fire Tuesday, smoke pouring from its white facade. Police water cannons were used to extinguish the fire.

Protesters could be heard shouting, “We’re coming for every politician."

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The Kenya Human Rights Commission shared a video of officers shooting at protesters, and it urged Ruto to issue an immediate order to “stop the killings.”

The president instead said the government had “mobilised all resources” to ensure order.

Protests spread

As throngs of protesters rushed through the streets on Tuesday, defiance emerged elsewhere in the country — including in the town where the president was, Naivasha, as protesters chanted “Ruto must go.”

Protesters tried to storm the State House in the western city of Nakuru, a witness said. There were clashes in the western lakeside city of Kisumu. The governor of Mombasa, Kenya's second-largest city, joined protesters outside his office and expressed his support for them.

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Protesters burned ruling party offices in Embu in central Kenya, the Nation newspaper reported. Citizen TV showed footage from Nyeri in central Kenya with police confronting protesters in the smoking streets.

A national gathering of Catholic bishops urged the police not to attack protesters and pleaded with the government to listen to citizens' pain over the “unwarranted” taxes, saying “The country is bleeding ... families are immensely suffering.”

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