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India issues urgent advisory as massive protests in Kenya turn chaotic over controversial finance bill

India's advisory came after the situation in Kenya escalated when police resorted to opening fire on protesters as they stormed into the parliament building. Thousands are protesting over a finance bill that introduces new taxes in the impoverished nation.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Nairobi Updated on: June 25, 2024 23:37 IST
Kenyan protests
Image Source : REUTERS Police fire tear gas at protesters in Kenya amid chaos over new finance bill.

Nairobi: India issued an urgent advisory for Indian nationals in Kenya amid a chaotic situation there as thousands of people are protesting against a controversial bill that introduced new taxes in the impoverished country. The situation escalated when police resorted to opening fire on protesters as they stormed into the parliament building after tear gas and water cannons failed to disperse the crowd.

"In view of the prevailing tense situation, all Indians in Kenya are advised to exercise utmost caution,  restrict non-essential movement and avoid the areas affected by the protests and violence till the situation clears up," wrote the Indian embassy in Kenya on X.

Thousands of protesters barged into the Kenyan Parliament in the capital Nairobi on Tuesday and a part of the building was seen ablaze, amid massive protests in the African country with angry protesters demanding legislators to vote against new taxes proposed in the bill.

What is happening in Kenya?

The third round of protests took place as lawmakers voted on the finance bill that would introduce new taxes, including an eco-levy that would raise the price of goods like sanitary towels and diapers. The protesters managed to overwhelm the police to entire the parliament shortly after a vote on the bill. Lawmakers fled through a tunnel, but protesters allowed opposition legislators who voted against the bill to walk out of the besieged building. 

The violence prompted police to fire live ammunition at the angry demonstrators as the situation turned chaotic after tear gas and water cannons failed to disperse the crowds. Police eventually managed to drive the protesters from the building amid clouds of tear gas and the sound of gunfire. Troops from the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) have been deployed to support the police in responding to the ongoing protests, according to reports.

Auma Obama, a Kenyan activist and the half-sister of former US President Barack Obama, was among the protesters who were tear-gassed on Tuesday during the chaotic protests. Many called for Kenyan President William Ruto to quit office as well as voicing their opposition to the tax rises. In Nairobi, people chanted "Ruto must go" and crowds sang in Swahili: "All can be possible without Ruto".

Troops from the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) have been deployed to support the police in responding to the ongoing protests, according to reports. Internet services across the East African country experienced severe disruptions during the police crackdown, internet monitor Netblocks said. Kenya's leading network operator Safaricom said outages had affected two of its undersea cables but the root cause of the disruptions remained unclear.

Why are Kenyans protesting against the bill?

The finance bill aims to raise an additional $2.7 billion in taxes as part of an effort to lighten Kenya's heavy debt load, with interest payments alone consuming 37 per cent of annual revenue. The bill was met with widespread criticism as people in the impoverished African country are already struggling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, two droughts and the depreciation of the currency.

The government has already made some concessions, promising to scrap proposed new taxes on bread, cooking oil, car ownership and financial transactions, but that has not been enough to satisfy protesters. Meanwhile, the United States is closely monitoring the situation in Nairobi and is urging calm.

(with inputs from agencies)

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