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News / Nation & World

Part of Kenya’s parliament is on fire as thousands of protesters enter. Several bodies are seen

By EVELYNE MUSAMBI, Associated Press
Published: June 25, 2024, 8:09am
3 Photos
Protesters hide behind a banner as police fire teargas at them during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill in downtown Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, June 25, 2024.
Protesters hide behind a banner as police fire teargas at them during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill in downtown Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga) Photo Gallery

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Part of Kenya’s parliament building was on fire Tuesday as thousands of protesters against a new finance bill entered and legislators fled, in the most direct assault on the government in decades. Journalists saw at least three bodies outside the complex where police had opened fire.

Protesters had demanded that legislators vote against the bill imposing new taxes on a country, East Africa’s economic hub, where frustrations over the high cost of living have simmered for years.

The protesters, many of them youth, outmaneuvered police to enter parliament shortly after legislators voted to pass the bill. Lawmakers fled through a tunnel, but protesters allowed opposition legislators who voted against the bill to walk out of the besieged building.

One person shot dead was wrapped in a Kenyan flag and carried away.

The office of the Nairobi governor, a member of the ruling party, was also briefly on fire. The office is located near parliament. Police water cannons were used to extinguish the fire.

Protesters could be heard shouting, “We’re coming for every politician.”

Police also fired live ammunition and threw tear gas canisters at protesters who sought treatment at a medical tent set up at a church near the parliament complex.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission shared a video of officers shooting at protesters and said they would be held to account.

Hundreds of Kenya’s police officers, long accused of abuses by human rights watchdogs and others, arrived Tuesday in Haiti to lead a United Nations-backed multinational force against the powerful gangs who have the country in its grip. The deployment faces a legal challenge in Kenya but the government of President William Ruto has gone ahead, with the thanks of U.S. President Joe Biden.

Ruto was outside Nairobi on Tuesday attending an African Union retreat. On Sunday, he said he was proud of the young people who had come out to exercise their democratic duty and said he would engage the youth on their concerns.

Ruto had been expected to sign the finance bill into law this week. He has two weeks to act.

Tuesday’s protests appeared to be spreading. Protesters burned ruling party offices in Embu in central Kenya, the Nation newspaper reported.

Another media outlet, broadcaster KTN, issued a statement saying that “we have received threats from the authorities to shut us down” as coverage continued.

Two people died in similar protests last week, and civil society groups have raised the alarm about a crackdown.

The Kenya Law Society President Faith Odhiambo said Tuesday that 50 Kenyans, including her personal assistant, had been “abducted” by people believed to be police officers.

Some of those missing included those who were vocal in the demonstrations and were taken from their homes, workplaces and public spaces ahead of Tuesday’s protests, according to civil society groups.

Police officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Parliament Speaker Moses Wetangula had directed the inspector general of police to provide information on the whereabouts of those reportedly abducted.

AP Africa news: https://apnews.com/hub/africa