Protesters in Kenya call for president's resignation despite withdrawal of tax hike bill

Protesters in Kenya are demanding the resignation of President William Ruto, despite his decision on Wednesday (26 June) to withdraw a controversial Finance Bill that would have raised taxes to tackle the country's debt crisis. The bill had sparked mass protests in which police opened fire on demonstrators, killing more than 20 people. On Thursday (27 June), Kenyan police set up roadblocks on the roads leading to the presidential palace. Some protesters vowed to 'occupy State House' despite the president's reversal on the proposed tax hikes that sparked a week of demonstrations. It remains uncertain whether President William Ruto's decision to withdraw the Finance Bill will appease the protesters, especially after clashes on Tuesday (25 June) left at least 23 people dead and parliament briefly stormed.

Ruto is facing the most serious crisis of his two-year presidency as the youth-led protest movement has quickly evolved from online criticism of tax hikes to mass rallies demanding a political overhaul. Some protesters said they had achieved their goals and decided not to demonstrate on Thursday (27 June). "The enemy was the Finance Bill," wrote one supporter on X. "The enemy is crushed. What more do you want?" But others vowed to press on, insisting that only Ruto's resignation would satisfy their demands. "Right now it's not just about the Finance Bill, it's about #RutoMustGo," protester Davis Tafari told Reuters in a text message. "As political activists, we need to make sure that Ruto and his MPs resign and new elections are held." He added: "We are occupying State House for dignity and justice," referring to the president's official residence and offices.

In a speech on Wednesday (26 June), Ruto defended his push to raise taxes on items such as bread, cooking oil and nappies, arguing that it was necessary to reduce Kenya's high debt, which has made borrowing difficult and weakened the currency. However, he acknowledged the public's overwhelming rejection of the Finance Bill and announced plans to engage with Kenya's youth and implement austerity measures, starting with budget cuts to the presidency. Unlike previous demonstrations in Kenya, which were often led by political figures and mobilised along ethnic lines, the current protests have no official leaders and appeal broadly to those frustrated by the rising cost of living and widespread corruption. Protests erupted on Tuesday (25 June) from major cities to rural areas in most of Kenya's 47 counties, including Ruto's hometown of Eldoret in his ethnic Kalenjin heartland. The Kenya Medical Association reported that at least 23 people were killed and 30 treated for gunshot wounds across the country. Medical officials in Nairobi also reported scores of injuries.

Source: and Reuters with other agencies

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