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Financial bill: After deadly protests, Kenya President Ruto bows

Kenyan President William Ruto Wednesday withdrew accent to a controversial finance bill in the face of mass protests that swept the country and reportedly left at least 23 people dead.

“Having reflected on the continuing conversation regarding the content of the finance bill 2024, and listening keenly to the people of Kenya who have said loudly that they want nothing to do with this Finance Bill 2024, I concede, and therefore I will not sign the 2024 finance bill,” Ruto said during a television address Wednesday.

“The people have spoken,” Ruto said. “Following the passage of the bill, the country experienced widespread expression of dissatisfaction with the bill as passed, regrettably resulting in the loss of life, the destruction of property and desecration of constitutional institutions.”

Kenya, a nation often praised for its stability, had seen escalating protests over the bill, which the government introduced to rein in public debt.

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. But the concessions were not enough to quell protests amid the rising cost of living.

On Tuesday they turned deadly when security forces fired teargas and live ammunition at protesters.

Dramatic scenes in the nation’s capital Nairobi saw government buildings set on fire and a ceremonial mace stolen from the parliament in the melee. Kenyan lawmakers were evacuated from the parliament as police went up against protesters, CNN affiliate NTV Kenya reported.

Ruto’s change of heart came as a surprise to some who observed his hardline stance just a day earlier.

During a nationwide address after the parliament was set alight, Ruto said the events on Tuesday were a grave threat to “national security” and that the conversation around the bill had been “hijacked by dangerous people.” (CNN)

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