Kenya's Ruto withdraws finance bill after anti-tax protest deaths

Kenyan President William Ruto said Wednesday that a bill containing contentious tax hikes would "be withdrawn" following massive protests in which at least 20 people died. But protesters say they will keep up the pressure to have the bill scrapped.

Ruto warned that the withdrawal of the finance bill would mean a significant shortfall in funding for development programmes designed to help farmers and schoolteachers, among others, as the East African nation struggles to lower its foreign debt burden.

"I concede and therefore I will not sign the 2024 finance bill and it shall subsequently be withdrawn," Ruto told a press briefing, adding: "The people have spoken."

"I will be proposing an engagement with the young people of our nation, our sons and daughters, for us to listen to them," he said, in a marked shift from his late-night address Tuesday when he likened some of the demonstrators to "criminals".

Ruto's administration has been taken by surprise by the intensity of opposition to its tax hikes, with protests breaking out across the country last week.


The largely peaceful rallies turned violent on Tuesday when lawmakers passed the legislation and police fired live rounds into crowds that ransacked the partly ablaze parliament complex.

Frustration over the rising cost of living spiralled last week as lawmakers began debating the bill containing the tax hikes.

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