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Diplomatic corps asks Raila to call off planned protests

Diplomatic corps asks Raila to call off planned protests
A demonstrator kicks a teargas cannister shortly after it landed next to him during protests | Credit | Courtesy

Diplomats from 13 Western countries have appealed to the Kenya’s opposition to suspend planned protests against high taxes over “high levels of violence”.

“We recognize the daily hardship faced by many Kenyans and urge all parties to table their concerns through a meaningful dialogue and resolve their differences peacefully to build the nation together, ensuring no further loss of life,” partly reads a statement signed by representatives of US, UK, Germany, Canada, and Australia among others.

Kenyan opposition leader and former prime minister Raila Odinga has led calls for nationwide protests over the increases.

A Kenyan court temporarily halted the implementation of the Finance Act 2023 touted by President William Ruto as a measure to shore up public finances and increase domestic revenue.

However, the Ruto administration defied the court order and increased tax on fuel prices, which has led to a rise in cost of transport and staple goods.

As a result, protests broke out across Kenya, including the capital Nairobi, last week, leaving nine demonstrators killed and bringing businesses to a standstill and causing major disruptions around the country.

“We are saddened by the loss of life and concerned by high levels of violence, including the use of live rounds and the destruction of poverty, during the recent demonstrations,” it continues.

Ruto, sworn in last September, has inherited an economy burdened by debt, inflation and weakening shilling. His government says tax hikes, which include a doubling of the fuel tax and the introduction of a levy to fund affordable housing, are necessary to deal with growing debt repayments and to create job opportunities.

However, opposition groups assert that the tax hikes will only exacerbate the hardships faced by Kenyans, who are already struggling with the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities, including food.

“We stand ready to support the parties in their efforts to find constructive and peaceful solutions,” it adds.

The other countries that expressed their concerns are Ukraine, Finland, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and Ireland.