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Unraveling Kenya's deadly protests and gov't recent fight with the press

Opposition supporters gather in front of a burning barricade during protests against the high cost of living in Nairobi, Kenya on July 19, 2023   -  
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LUIS TATO/AFP or licensors


Kenya has in recent months experienced a wave of anti-tax protests against the already high cost of living. At least 30 people were confirmed dead by the opposition Azimio coalition who blamed the police for using extra force to dent the demonstrations.

Africanews spoke to one of the local journalists in Kenya, Timothy Simwa, who linked the protest to a defiance of the new tax by President Ruto's regime.

"But at least on the issue of the cost of living in the country at the moment, both and seem to be agreeing perhaps where the rubber meets the road is how we exactly tackle this situation. We have seen the finance bill, which was enacted into an act by the president, attracting a lot of controversies, at least from opinion polls. Many Kenyans, while opposed to this," said Timothy Simwa, a K24 Journalist.

The government has maintained that the protesters are being used by the opposition leaders to push for a coalition in what has been termed as a handshake. The media fraternity has also not been spared with government officials claiming they sympathize with the opposition. 

The media refute these allegations.

"President William Ruto has the government and the media have had sort of a frosty relationship even before assuming power. The president and his camp felt like he wasn't being given fair coverage the way the opposition was being given during the campaigns and upon assumption of office, they have not been shy to come out and tell the media that they do not like the way you conduct yourselves. They feel the media has been biased. But the media owners partly feel that the president and his administration have been vindictive in the manner in which it has been operating. And at some point even citing that they have been blatantly in total disregard of Article 34 of the Constitution, of course, which gives the media the freedom and liberty to operate without any form of control, especially from the state," said Timothy Simwa, K24 Journalist.

Preparations for talks are currently underway with both the government and the opposition expected to meet to quel down the protests. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is expected to steer the talks in the coming weeks. But some Kenyans have expressed doubts about the talks.

"On whether or not they intend a dialog that will be led by Nigeria's retired president Olusegun Obasanjo will yield any fruit. This it's just a matter of wait and see. But it's fair to mention that some Kenyans are still skeptical about whether this could be a viable idea, bearing in mind that in 2018, the then president Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga had a handshake and a sort of agreement that those who feel it never yielded anything tangible, at least for their supporters," said Timothy Simwa, a K24 Journalist.

The political future of Kenya still remains tense as the government has blamed former President Uhuru Kenyatta for sponsoring the opposition protests. The government has withdrawn all the security details of the former leader including his extended family. Uhuru Kenyatta has refuted the claims.

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