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Kenya: Demonstrators blockade streets in rally against finance bill

A protesters throws back a teargas canister at police officers during a protest over proposed tax hikes in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024   -  
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Andrew Kasuku/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.


Kenyans returned to the streets of Nairobi on Thursday night tearing down cctv cameras, setting fire to tyres and blocking roads to protest against proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is being tabled in parliament.

Earlier on Thursday clashes between police and the protesters took place and tear gas was used to disperse the crowds.

The right to peaceful protests is guaranteed in the Kenyan Constitution, but organizers are required to notify the police beforehand. Police generally give a go-ahead unless there are security concerns.

More than 200 protesters were arrested on Tuesday in similar protests.

Some major tax proposals in the bill were dropped after a Tuesday morning meeting between ruling party lawmakers and Kenyan President William Ruto.

The chairperson of the finance committee, Kuria Kimani, said the proposal to introduce a 16% value-added tax on bread had been dropped.

Other levies that had prompted debate and have been amended included a proposed 2.5% motor vehicle annual tax that was to be placed on insurance.

A proposed tax on goods that degrade the environment will also be amended to apply only to imported goods to encourage local manufacturing.

Ruto last month defended the proposed taxes, saying the country must be financially self-sustaining.

Legislators started debating the bill starting Wednesday with a vote scheduled for Monday.

Last year’s finance law introduced a 1.5% housing tax on gross income for salaried individuals, despite concerns that it would further burden Kenyans already struggling under a high cost of living.

The law also doubled VAT on petroleum products from 8% to 16%.

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