Several killed and dozens injured during protest in Kenya over tax Bill

Security forces targeted protesters who raided and set the parliament on fire

Several people have been killed after police opened fire on protesters attempting to storm the Kenyan parliament during a demonstration on proposed tax rises

Kenya’s parliament was raided and partially set on fire on Tuesday by protesters against a new tax Bill, who were then targeted by security forces with bullets and tear gas. Several were killed and dozens injured.

A finance Bill passed by legislators on Tuesday is seen as targeting the poor in a country where unemployment is high and roughly one-third of people live below the national poverty line.

After legislators passed the Bill they reportedly fled parliament through a tunnel, while the building was stormed by demonstrators. Outside in the streets of Nairobi, the capital, security forces launched a heavy handed response to protests that have lasted for a week.

The full death toll on Tuesday was unclear. A joint statement by Amnesty International, the Kenya Medical Association, the Law Society of Kenya and the Kenya Police Reforms Working Group said at least five people were shot dead “while treating the injured”, and 31 were injured. Over 24 hours, there were 21 “abductions and disappearances” by “uniformed and non-uniformed officers”, the statement said. At least two of those taken were later released.


The Kenya Human Rights Commission said its staff witnessed four protesters being shot by police, one of whom was killed. “We will vigorously push for police accountability,” its statement said.

A later statement signed by Faith Odhiambo, president of the Law Society of Kenya, said journalists were among those shot and “June 25th, 2024 will go down in history as the day Kenyans died so that their president could please the colonial masters in the name of staggered tax measures recommended for implementation by the [International Monetary Fund]”.

Protesters chant anti-government slogans inside the Kenyan parliament compound on Tuesday. Photograph: Luis Tato/AFP via Getty Images

It is the worst unrest since president William Ruto came to power in September 2022.

The multimillionaire, who ran a campaign portraying himself as a “hustler” battling the elite, is Kenya’s fifth president and a former vice-president. He mobilised young Kenyans with a promise to address challenges such as high unemployment and a lack of opportunities.

Mr Ruto (57), along with former president Uhuru Kenyatta, was previously indicted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court over violence following the 2007 general election, in which more than 1,200 people were killed. The case was dropped in 2016.

The president – who says the new taxes are necessary to control Kenya’s debt of more than €74 billion – has two weeks to sign the Bill into law. The government dropped some of the most controversial measures planned, such as tax rises on bread and cooking oils.

On Tuesday afternoon NetBlocks, which monitors internet activity, said network data showed a “major disruption” to connectivity in Kenya. Kenyan news channel KTN News said it received threats from authorities but was committed to “defend[ing] the public interest”.

The east African country of roughly 54 million people serves as a regional headquarters for many international organisations and multinationals, and inequality there is stark.

In Transparency International’s 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index, Kenya ranked 126 out of 180 countries.

“It’s absolutely okay to tax people,” said a 34-year-old IT specialist who protested on Tuesday. But he claimed the government would use the revenue to “fund their lavish lifestyle”. He said he would like to see an “overhaul of governance”.

He said the protests were “largely peaceful, there was a holding of placards, the usual chants, and trying to really amplify [our] voice[s]”. At about 3.30pm local time, when the parliamentarians approved the Bill, he said, “I witnessed rage among protesters and that’s when the one main goal for us who were protesting became occupying parliament buildings”.

Security forces initially responded by firing tear gas, he said. This then turned to excessive force including shooting of protesters, he said.

In a joint statement, 13 diplomatic missions, including Ireland’s, said they were “deeply concerned” by the violence and called for “restraint on all sides”.

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports on Africa