Kenyan Police Continue to Clash with Protesters Over Finance Bill

Police have fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters across Kenya as demonstrations against a controversial finance bill continue, despite President William Ruto’s withdrawal of support for the legislation.

In the capital, Nairobi, riot police charged at protesters on Tuesday, deploying tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowds. The protests have persisted even after Ruto announced he would not sign the bill, which many fear he could still enact before its expiration next week.

Protesters, citing a lack of trust in Ruto, have shown little sign of backing down. In a televised interview on Sunday, Ruto acknowledged the protest death toll but cited a lower figure of 19, a number contested by rights groups. He defended the use of security forces, labeling the protesters as “criminals” and insisting he did not have “blood on my hands.” His comments have only fueled the anger of the demonstrators.

Hundreds of protesters marched through Mombasa, Kenya’s second-largest city, carrying palm fronds, blowing plastic horns, and beating drums while chanting, “Ruto must go!” Smaller rallies were reported in the cities of Kisumu, Nakuru, and Nyeri.

The unrest marks the most widespread protests since dozens were killed in clashes a week ago. President Ruto’s abandonment of tax rise plans, which initially sparked the unrest last month, has failed to quell the youth-led movement.

The Kenya National Human Rights Commission reported that at least 39 people have been killed since the protests began on June 18, with most deaths occurring on June 25 when police opened fire as crowds attempted to storm the parliament complex in central Nairobi. The commission condemned the police response as “excessive and disproportionate,” noting that at least 361 people have been injured.

The government had justified the proposed tax increases as necessary to address a massive public debt of about 10 trillion shillings ($78 billion). However, in Sunday’s interview, Ruto warned that the decision to drop the tax bill would force the government to borrow an additional $7.7 billion.

Protester Milan Waudo, speaking to Reuters in Mombasa, criticized Ruto’s focus on finances over human lives. “People are dying in the streets, and the only thing he can talk about is money. We are not money. We are people. We are human beings,” Waudo said. “He needs to care about his people, because if he can’t care about his people, then we don’t need him in that chair.”

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who has been a prominent figure in the protests, despite calls from some demonstrators for politicians to stay away, expressed support for the movement. “The youth have given our country its last best chance,” Odinga’s ODM party said in a statement.

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