Kenya tax protests escalate to deadly clashes

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan President William Ruto declared security his “utmost priority” on Tuesday after protests against a bill to raise taxes turned violent, with police firing on demonstrators attempting to storm the legislature, resulting in at least five deaths.

In chaotic scenes in the capital, Nairobi, protesters overwhelmed police and forced them to retreat as they attempted to enter the parliament compound. Citizen TV later broadcast footage showing damage inside the building, which had been partially set ablaze.

Protests and clashes erupted in several other cities and towns across Kenya, with many demonstrators calling for President Ruto’s resignation and expressing their opposition to the proposed tax increases.

In a televised address to the nation, President Ruto condemned the violence, stating that the tax debate had been “hijacked by dangerous people.” He asserted, “It is not in order, or even conceivable, that criminals pretending to be peaceful protesters can reign terror against the people,” and pledged a swift response to Tuesday’s “treasonous events.”

In Nairobi, police opened fire after tear gas and water cannons failed to disperse the crowds. Authorities eventually managed to clear protesters from the parliament building, and lawmakers were evacuated through an underground tunnel, according to local media reports.

Later on Tuesday, Defence Minister Aden Duale announced the deployment of the army to assist police in addressing what he described as a “security emergency” that had led to the “destruction and breaching of critical infrastructure.”

The Kenya Medical Association reported that at least five people had been shot dead, and 31 others were injured, including 13 who had been hit by live bullets and four by rubber bullets. The association urged authorities to establish safe medical corridors to protect medical staff and ambulances.