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Police fire on demonstrators trying to storm Kenya parliament, several dead

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Reuters


Kenyan President William Ruto said on Tuesday security was his “utmost priority” after protests against a bill to raise taxes descended into violence, with police firing on demonstrators trying to storm the legislature, killing at least five.

In chaotic scenes in the capital Nairobi, protesters overwhelmed police and chased them away in an attempt to enter the parliament compound, with Citizen TV later showing damage from inside the building, which had been partially set ablaze.
Protests and clashes also took place in several other cities and towns across Kenya, with many calling for Ruto to quit as well as voicing their opposition to the tax rises.
In a televised address to the nation, Ruto said the tax debate had been “hijacked by dangerous people”.
“It is not in order, or even conceivable, that criminals pretending to be peaceful protesters can reign terror against the people…,” he said, pledging a swift response to Tuesday’s “treasonous events”.
Police in Nairobi opened fire after tear gas and water cannon failed to disperse the crowds. They eventually managed to drive protesters from the parliament building and lawmakers were evacuated through an underground tunnel, local media said.
Later on Tuesday, Defence Minister Aden Duale said the army had been deployed to help the police deal with a “security emergency” which had resulted in the “destruction and breaching of critical infrastructure”.
A Reuters journalist counted the bodies of at least five protesters outside parliament.
The Kenya Medical Association said that at least five people had been shot dead while treating the injured, and that 31 people had been injured, with 13 shot with live bullets and four with rubber bullets.
The association called on authorities to establish safe medical corridors to protect medical staff and ambulances.

CAUGHT BETWEEN COMPETING DEMANDS

Ruto won an election almost two years ago on a platform of championing Kenya’s working poor, but has been caught between the competing demands of lenders such as the International Monetary Fund, which is urging the government to cut deficits to obtain more funding, and a hard-pressed population.
Kenyans have been struggling to cope with several economic shocks caused by the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, two consecutive years of drought and depreciation of the currency.
The finance bill aims to raise an additional $2.7 billion in taxes as part of an effort to lighten Kenya’s heavy debt load, with interest payments alone consuming 37% of annual revenue.
In Washington, the White House said the United States was closely monitoring the situation in Nairobi and urging calm.
Ambassadors and high commissioners from countries including Britain, the U.S. and Germany said in a joint statement they were deeply concerned by violence they had witnessed during recent anti-tax protests and called for restraint on all sides.
Kenyan activist Auma Obama, the half-sister of former U.S. President Barack Obama, was among protesters tear-gassed during the demonstrations, a CNN interview showed.
Internet services across the East African country experienced severe disruptions during the police crackdown, internet monitor Netblocks said. Kenya’s leading network operator Safaricom said outages had affected two of its undersea cables but the root cause of the outages remained unclear.