July 20, 2024

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Kenya: Odinga to Ruto – Stop Killing Our Children

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Opposition leader Raila Odinga has called on President William Ruto’s administration to immediately halt what he describes as the “murders, arrests, and detention” of youths protesting the Finance Bill, 2024.

Odinga made these remarks as Kenya is gripped by nationwide protests against proposed tax hikes, culminating in Tuesday’s “total shutdown” of the country.

The protests quickly turned violent as police used tear gas and live rounds on demonstrators.

Last week, the government scrapped some tax increases, including a proposed 16% value-added tax on bread, along with taxes on motor vehicles, vegetable oil, and mobile money transfers.

However, these concessions have not been enough to quell protests amid the rising cost of living.

The controversy over the budget follows other revenue-raising measures introduced by Mr. Ruto, including increased taxes for healthcare and low-cost housing.

In a statement, Odinga condemned the government’s use of force against peaceful demonstrators, which has resulted in several deaths.

“The escalation of protests, which have turned bloody with several protesters being shot dead by police, stems from the arrogance and obstinacy of government officials,” Odinga stated.

He expressed deep concern over the violent crackdown on young protesters exercising their right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

“The government’s actions are unprecedented in Kenya’s 61-year history since independence,” he said.

“The constitution seems to have been suspended, and we cannot allow that. The government has unleashed brute force on our country’s children. We can’t and won’t tolerate any extra minute of this murder spree and violence.”

Odinga called for the immediate cessation of police violence and the unconditional withdrawal of the Finance Bill, urging the government to engage in dialogue.

He highlighted the grievances of the protesting youths, emphasizing that their demands for food, jobs, and a fair hearing should not be met with brutality.

“The immediate trigger for these protests is the Finance Bill. This Bill is not an emergency or a life-and-death matter. The government can suspend the current Finance Bill and revert to the previous Finance Act until a consensus is reached,” he suggested.

Odinga also called on international bodies, including the East African Community, the African Union, and the United Nations, to intervene and address the unfolding situation in Kenya to prevent further loss of life.

“I mourn with the families that have lost loved ones and stand with them in the ongoing struggle for justice and economic liberation,” Odinga said.

Kenyan President William Ruto denounced protests on Tuesday that saw parliament stormed and at least five people shot dead as “treasonous,” but did not address the swelling outrage against the controversial finance bill that sparked the widespread demonstrations.

By Nile Post.

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