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Jun 25, 2024, 10:42am EDT
africa

Protesters storm Kenyan parliament, five people killed

Reuters/Monicah Mwangi
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The News

NAIROBI — Protesters on Tuesday stormed Kenya’s parliament in Nairobi, getting past a heavy police cordon as MPs voted to pass an unpopular finance bill containing a raft of tax hikes. A section of the parliament building was set on fire and protesters ventured into some of the rooms in parliament, with police struggling to gain control.

Police fired live bullets outside parliament in a bid to stop the protesters. Amnesty International reported that at least five people have been killed and dozens wounded in the protests. There has now been at least one credible report of an internet disruption to Kenya. The protests were predominantly organized by young Kenyans over social media platforms.

A series of abductions of several social media influencers and mobilizers associated with the youth-led protests is also fuelling public anger against President William Ruto’s government. Amnesty International said in a statement on Tuesday that 21 Kenyans had been illegally abducted or disappeared over five days by “uniformed and non-uniformed officers” in connection to the protests.

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“It is inconceivable that law enforcement officers are the perpetrators of illegalities and we will unmask and take actions against these rogue criminal elements putting our police in ruin,” said Faith Odhiambo, president of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), on Tuesday.

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Storming parliament was considered a milestone for the protest movement which has had #OccupyParliament as one of its main rallying calls. The protests have spread to cities and towns across the country, including Ruto’s political strongholds of Eldoret and Kericho in the Rift Valley.

Ruto on Sunday had said he was willing to engage the protesters, most of whom are Gen Z and millennial Kenyans. The police heavy-handedness and abductions have, however, put him on a collision course with protesters who accuse him of hypocrisy.

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“I am very proud of our young people... they have stepped forward peacefully and I want to tell them we are going to engage them,” Ruto said in his first public comments on the protests.

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The View From Haiti

As images of Kenyan police struggling with unarmed protesters go around the world, Haitian human rights groups have raised concerns on the Kenyan deployment to Haiti. Their particular concern is the reports of police brutality witnessed in the Kenyan protests. The Movement Unforgettable Dessalines Jean Jacques (MUDJJ), last week wrote to the United Nations expressing concern that the conduct of the police in handling domestic protests might foreshadow the use of similar tactics in Haiti.

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