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Kenyans protest over proposed tax hike in finance bill

DOZENS of protesters were arrested in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, today in ongoing protests against proposed tax rises in a finance Bill.

Police hurled tear gas canisters at hundreds of demonstrators, forcing businesses to temporarily close for fear of violence.

Lawyer Wanjohi Gachie said he was protesting on behalf of all Kenyans who would be potentially burdened by the tax rises.

“I’m requesting the police not to arrest or beat us, because we are fighting for their rights as well,” he said.

Civil society groups say that demonstrations and a planned sit-down protest outside the parliament buildings will continue despite the arrests.

Nairobi police commander Adamson Bungei said that the arrests were made as no group had been granted permission to protest in the capital.

Some major tax proposals in the Bill were dropped after a meeting this morning between ruling party MPs and President William Ruto, including a 16 per cent tax on bread.

Other levies that have prompted debate and have been amended include a proposed 2.5 per cent motor vehicle annual tax on insurance.

A proposed tax on goods that degrade the environment will also be amended to apply only to imported goods to encourage local manufacturing.

Mr Ruto last month defended the proposed taxes, saying the country must be financially self-sustaining.

Politicians are due to start debating the Bill on Wednesday with a vote scheduled for Monday.

Last year’s finance law introduced a 1.5 per cent housing tax on gross income for salaried individuals, despite concerns it would further burden Kenyans already struggling under a high cost of living.

The law also doubled the VAT tax on petroleum products from 8 per cent to 16 per cent.

Rights group Amnesty Kenya said that its staff members observing the protests were arrested.

“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of all arrested protesters and observers," the group said.

Kenya Law Society President Faith Odhiambo said that police used tear gas on lawyers at a Nairobi police station as they sought to see their clients.

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