Multiple deaths reported as police clash with anti-tax protesters in Kenya

ByEmma Ogao and Morgan Winsor ABCNews logo
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

LONDON -- Police allegedly fired live ammunition at anti-government protesters in Kenya's capital on Tuesday, as thousands of people demonstrated against proposed tax hikes in the East African nation.

At least five people were shot dead during Tuesday's clashes between police and protesters in Nairobi, according to Amnesty International. Another 31 people were injured, the organization said. There were also 52 arrests, per Amnesty International.

Images and videos circulating online purportedly show several protesters with bullet wounds in the Kenyan capital.

Kenya announced the country's armed forces were responding "in support of the National Police Service in response to the security emergency caused by the ongoing violent protests in various parts of the Republic of Kenya resulting in destruction and breaching of critical infrastructure."

The Kenya Human Rights Commission posted video on the social media platform X showing police shooting at protesters as they marched near Nairobi City Hall. The watchdog body said its staff witnessed at least one protester die from the gunshots.

"We strongly condemn the police killing," the Kenya Human Rights Commission wrote in a post on X. "Such actions are unacceptable and constitute a grave violation of human rights. Justice and accountability are imperative. We will vigorously push for police accountability."

Scores of protesters were seen breaching the complex housing Kenya's Parliament, where lawmakers had just voted to approve a contentious finance bill that raises some taxes. A section of the building was set on fire, forcing lawmakers to evacuate.

In a joint statement from embassies of several countries, including the United States, Netherlands and Germany, they said, "We are deeply concerned by the violence witnessed in many parts of the country during the recent protests, and are especially shocked by the scenes witnessed outside the Kenyan Parliament. We regret the tragic loss of life and injuries sustained including by the use of live fire."

The Biden administration has cultivated a close relationship with Kenyan President William Ruto, naming the country a major non-NATO ally and honoring Ruto with a state visit just last month.

"We condemn the violence reported during protests in Nairobi and around Kenya," State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said, reading from a statement at a briefing Tuesday. "We mourn the loss of life and injuries sustained and offer our condolences to the families who lost loved ones. We urge restraint to restore order and provide space for dialogue."

The demonstrations have also been taking place nationwide, including in Ruto's hometown of Eldoret.

At least 12 people have been allegedly abducted or have forcibly disappeared in connection to the ongoing protests, according to Kenya's Police Reforms Working Group. The abductions reportedly occurred over the past five days, intensifying on Monday. In a statement posted on X, Kenyan Chief Justice Martha Koome said the reports of protesters being abducted are of "deep concern" and a "direct assault on the rule of law."

Several notable Kenyan figures have joined in the nationwide demonstrations, including former U.S. President Barack Obama's half-sister, Auma Obama, who was among those protesting in Nairobi on Tuesday. Auma Obama, 64, was with a group of protesters being interviewed by CNN on a live broadcast when they were apparently tear-gassed.

The controversial legislation in question is aimed at raising $2.7 billion in revenue to alleviate debt and reduce borrowing. But critics argue corruption and greed at the hands of Kenya's politicians have stolen money from the economy and that ordinary people should not be the ones to pay the price.

Following protests last Tuesday, Ruto's office announced they made amendments to the bill "in account of the views of the people and other stakeholders during public participation sessions."

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