In the wake of rising discontent among Kenyan citizens due to the mounting cost of living and tax hikes, Nairobi witnessed the eruption of protests on Wednesday. Approximately 100 demonstrators took to the streets of Kibera, a destitute neighborhood notorious for confrontations with security forces. The protesters, voicing their anger over the economic hardships they endure daily, resorted to pelting rocks at police officers, who responded with barrages of tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
As the unrest unfolded, the city center assumed an eerie calmness, resembling a ghost town, with numerous businesses opting to close their doors for safety. Police were stationed at strategic checkpoints on roads leading to the State House, fortifying the government premises against potential escalation of the protests.
This isn’t the first time Kenya has experienced such turmoil. Earlier this month, two rounds of protests turned violent when police resorted to tear gas and even live ammunition to control the crowds. Tragically, at least 15 lives were lost in the mayhem, and hundreds were detained, exacerbating the already volatile situation.
The heart of the protests lies in the public’s discontent with recent tax hikes imposed by the government under President William Ruto’s leadership. President Ruto, who won the elections with promises to champion the interests of the poor, now faces public scrutiny as the cost of essential commodities continues to rise under his administration. Kenyan citizens feel the burden acutely, struggling to make ends meet as their purchasing power diminishes.
The opposition parties in Kenya spearheaded the call for these protests, urging President Ruto and veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga to engage in meaningful dialogue and find a solution to address the country’s pressing issues. Various churches and civil rights groups have echoed this plea, urging the leaders to consider the broader interests of the nation and halt the protests in favor of constructive discussions.
In the words of Stephen Kipchumba Cheboi, Chairman of the Non-Governmental Organisation Council of Kenya, “It is not too late for Azmio to halt the planned protests and give talks another shot in the wider interest of the country.”