Kenya’s Parliament On Fire As protesters Storm; Casualties Reported Following Police Gunfire

Kenya descended into chaos on Tuesday as a portion of the parliament building was set on fire amid widespread protests against a new budget policy. Thousands of people, outraged by the new taxes, stormed the parliament building, forcing lawmakers to leave. This is one of the most frontal attacks on the Kenyan administration in decades.

Journalists reported witnessing at least three bodies outside the parliament building after police opened fire on protestors. The disturbance swiftly extended to other cities, highlighting deep-seated dissatisfaction with the exorbitant cost of life in East Africa’s economic powerhouse.

Kenya’s Parliament On Fire As protesters Storm; Casualties Reported Following Police Gunfire

Protesters, especially young people who had supported President William Ruto’s candidacy in the anticipation of receiving economic relief, requested that parliament reject the additional tax. However, the law was passed, resulting inintense clashes. Opposition legislators who voted against the bill were allowed to leave the building, while those supporting it had to escape through a tunnel. The fire within the parliament was eventually extinguished.

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One of the slain demonstrators was seen being wrapped in a Kenyan flag and brought away. The administration has yet to comment on the incident, and internet access throughout the country has significantly slowed. President Ruto, who was attending an African Union retreat outside Nairobi, is likely to sign the bill into law within two weeks.

The upheaval also impacted the Nairobi governor’s office, which briefly caught fire. Smoke billowed from the building’s facade before police used water cannons to extinguish the fire. Protesters shouted, “We’re coming for every politician.”

Police used live bullets and tear gas to attack demonstrators seeking medical attention at a nearby church. Kenyatta National Hospital reported receiving 45 injured persons, however it is unknown if there were any fatalities.

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The Kenya Human Rights Commission released video footage of police shooting at protestors, calling for accountability and urged President Ruto to immediately stop the violence. On Sunday, Ruto attempted to defuse tensions by congratulating the young demonstrators on exercising their democratic rights and vowing to resolve their concerns.

Despite these guarantees, the youth have announced intentions to hold the government accountable as petrol, food, and other basic prices continue to rise. Nairobi, a regional hub with a large expatriate and UN presence, has witnessed rising inequality and long-standing grievances with official corruption emerge.

The financial law has brought together a sizable portion of the populace against it, transcending the tribal barriers that have long plagued Kenya. Many fans of Ruto now feel misled by his policies.  “I fell for his lies. Now I’m out here regretting why I voted for him,” said Oscar Saina, a young protester.

The rioting wasn’t limited to Nairobi. Protesters attempted to attack the State House in Nakuru, while violence broke out in Kisumu, a lakeside city. Mombasa’s governor joined demonstrators in his city, expressing support for their cause. In Embu, governing party buildings were set on fire, and police clashed with demonstrators in Nyeri’s streets.

One media organization, KTN, claimed receiving threats from officials to stop reporting. Meanwhile, Catholic bishops asked police not to attack protestors and urged the government to respond to the public’s outrage over the “unwarranted” levies, emphasizing Kenyan families’ widespread suffering.

The protests followed similar upheaval last week, which claimed two lives. Civil society groups have warned of a brutal crackdown as tensions rise.

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