Up to 23 people have reportedly died in the crackdown by police against the July 2023 protests in Kenya denouncing the new tax regime introduced by President William Ruto’s government.
The protests first broke out on July 7 against the new taxes, introduced as part of the Finance Act 2023, which has been praised by the U.S. for the opportunities it opens up for its capital to operate in Kenya. Another major round of agitations took place on July 12.
In the meantime, the legality of the new taxes that the government has been collecting since July 1, as envisaged in the Act, is being contested. On June 30, a day before the Act was to take effect, the Milimani High Court temporarily suspended its implementation. Subsequently, on July 10, the Milimani High Court refused the government’s appeal to lift the temporary suspension, extending it indefinitely.
Fuel prices in Kenya had already reached a historic high after Ruto’s government lifted subsidies at the insistence of the IMF. With the doubling of VAT, taxes now amount to 40 percent of the cost per liter, which has reached a 12-year high.
The Finance Act also envisages a tax on sugar and maize flour and a housing levy. Booker Ngesa Omole, the national vice-chairperson of the Communist Party of Kenya, said the levy is for a public-private partnership, in which the public money will be given to private contractors to construct houses. Only the wealthy can afford to buy the newly-constructed houses, he added.
Protests are set to continue, with the third round scheduled on July 19.