Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

  • Author, Basillioh Rukanga
  • Role, BBC News, Nairobi

A section of Kenya’s parliament is on fire, minutes after protesters broke through police lines to storm the complex.

Live footage on local television showed smoke coming from inside the complex.

There have been reports of people being wounded as police fired rounds to disperse the crowds.

A human rights organisation said it has witnessed four protesters being shot, and said that one person had been been killed. This has not been confirmed.

“Such actions are unacceptable and constitute a grave violation of human rights,” a the Kenya Human Rights Commission said.

There were also images of a police truck on fire nearby.

Thousands of protesters have been engaged in running battles with the police, with security officers firing rubber bullets and teargas to break up the crowds.

There have been also been protests in other cities and towns around the country.

Businesses have been shut and transport has been paralysed.

The protests came just as MPs passed a controversial finance bill that introduced unpopular taxes.

The youth-led protesters called on MPs to reject the proposed tax increases.

The government, which has rowed back on some of the most controversial measures, says new taxes are needed to fund spending programmes and lessen the debt burden.

Earlier, an AFP journalist was quoted as hearing a police officer tell his colleagues to ” get the rubber bullets from the box”.

The police then reportedly started firing in the air and at the protesters.

Officers were deployed to protect key government installations, including parliament. However, protesters managed to enter the complex.

A BBC reporter in Nairobi says the crowds were much bigger than in previous protests and the police seemed to be overwhelmed.

The protesters had been shouting “reject the finance bill”, and had vowed to get to parliament.

“There are some things that are hard to understand, like how can you impose 16% tax on bread? How can you tax sanitary pads?” 24-year-old Derrick Mwathu told the BBC.

He was referring to some of the controversial measures initially proposed – the government has since said it would not impose the tax on bread and only tax imported sanitary items.

Ahead of the demonstrations, lawyers and human rights groups expressed concern about arbitrary arrests and the intimidation of activists during earlier protests.

It came amid reports of at least five prominent social media users being abducted at dawn, hours before the demonstrations.

The protests have attracted the attention of Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine and South Africa’s Julius Malema who have both expressed their support.

At least two people died in protests and hundreds others injured in last week’s demonstrations, which were largely peaceful.

Mr Ruto acknowledged the protests and promised he will hold talks to address the concerns of the youth who are at the forefront of the protests.

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Image source, Getty Images/BBC

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