July 19, 2024

Kenya’s president called the storming of parliament a national security threat and vowed that such unrest won’t happen again “at whatever cost,” after thousands of protesters against a new finance bill pushed their way in, burning part of the building and sending legislators fleeing.

The violent demonstration on Tuesday was the most direct assault on the government in decades.

Journalists saw at least three bodies outside the complex where police had opened fire, and medical workers reported five others killed. Clashes spread to other cities. There was no immediate word on arrests.

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Other demonstrators were treated in hospital after police fired tear gas rounds. They included the half sister of former US president Barack Obama.

“Today’s events mark a critical turning point on how we respond to threats to our national security,” Ruto said, calling the events “treasonous.”

Kenya’s defence minister said the military had been deployed to support police during the “security emergency” and “breaching of critical infrastructure.”

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

Youths who had voted Ruto into power with cheers for his promises of economic relief have taken to the streets to object to the pain of reforms.

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But MPs voted to pass the bill, then fled through a tunnel as protesters outsmarted police and poured in. The fire was later put out.

At least five people were shot dead while treating the wounded, the Kenya Medical Association and other groups said in a statement.

It said more than 30 people were wounded, at least 13 with live bullets.

Police fired live ammunition and threw tear gas canisters at protesters who sought treatment at a medical tent at a nearby church. Elsewhere in town, Kenyatta National Hospital said it received 45 “victims.

Among those teargassed was the half-sister of former United States president Barack Obama, reports CNN.

Auma Obama, a Kenyan-British activist, was among a group of young protesters taking part in the protest.

“I can’t even see anymore, we’re being teargassed,” she said.

“Look at what’s happening. Young Kenyans are demonstrating for their rights. They are demonstrating with flags and banners,” Obama said.

Ruto had been outside Nairobi attending an African Union retreat. He was expected to sign the finance bill into law this week.

He has two weeks to act but faces calls from religious and other leaders to think again.

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