Kenyan President Ruto withdraws controversial finance bill after deadly protests



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Kenyans President William Ruto on Wednesday said he will not sign the controversial Finance Bill, as massive protests rock the country that have reportedly left at least 23 people dead.

“Having considered the ongoing negotiations about the contents of the Finance Bill 2024, and having carefully listened to Kenyans who have said loudly that they want nothing to do with this Finance Bill 2024, I believe, and therefore I will not sign, the Finance Bill 2024,” Ruto said during a televised address on Wednesday.

“The people have spoken,” Ruto said. “The country has witnessed widespread expressions of discontent since the bill was passed, which tragically resulted in the loss of lives, destruction of property and desecration of constitutional institutions.”

Kenya, a country often praised for its stability, has seen intense protests over the bill, which the government introduced to rein in public debt.

Last week, the government finished it Some tax hikes, including taxes on motor vehicles, vegetable oil and mobile money transfers, as well as a proposed 16% value-added tax on bread. But these concessions were not enough to quell the protests rising cost of living,

The situation turned deadly on Tuesday when security forces fired tear gas and bullets at the protesters.

Dramatic scenes were seen in the country’s capital, Nairobi, with government buildings being set on fire and the ceremonial mace stolen from parliament. Kenyan lawmakers were evacuated from parliament after police attacked protesters, CNN affiliate NTV Kenya reported.

Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Ruto’s comments come a day after deadly protests broke out across Kenya.

At least 23 people were killed in the violence, according to the Police Reform Working Group (PRWG), a Kenyan civil society organization.

In a statement published by Amnesty International Kenya, PRWG alleged that police targeted young, unarmed protesters outside parliament, and that violence continued into the night. They added that “reports indicate that police shot several people in Githurai, Nairobi – one of whom was shot more than 40 times – between 10pm and 1am, long after the protest had ended.”

This was contrary to the account given by Ruto, who said in his speech that six people were killed.

“I offer my condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones in this unfortunate manner,” Ruto said.

“As a nation we need to move on from here and into the future,” Ruto said, adding that he would be meeting with the youths leading the protests to listen to their ideas and proposals.

Ruto’s change of heart came as a surprise to some who had noted his tough stance just a day earlier.

In a nationwide address after parliament was set on fire, Ruto said Tuesday’s events were a serious threat to “national security” and that discussions around the bill had been “hijacked by dangerous elements.”

Kenyan analyst Herman Manyora said withdrawing the bill much earlier could have saved many of the lives lost on Tuesday.

“Their announcement should have come earlier. They did today what they should have done two days ago to avoid what happened yesterday. I’m sorry we had to wait … to do what we should have done on Monday … and that’s the general feeling among the people,” Manyora told CNN.

CNN’s Katherine Nichols contributed to this report.

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