NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — At least five protesters were injured in Kenya Wednesday as police clashed with demonstrators who are calling for the government to lower the cost of living.
The opposition has called for three days of countrywide protests starting Wednesday in a new wave of demonstrations aimed at forcing the president to repeal a finance law imposing new taxes.
President William Ruto had vowed that no protests would take place in the country, saying he would take on opposition leader Raila Odinga “head-on.”
Four protesters were injured in the capital, Nairobi’s Mathare area, according to a police officer who wished to remain anonymous as he was not authorized to speak to the media. The Associated Press team covered a man who was injured in Kibera slums.
Businesses in Nairobi remained closed on Wednesday as police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters.
Demonstrations were reported in several other parts of the country including the western counties of Kisumu, Migori and Kisii where the opposition enjoys huge support. Police on Tuesday said the Wednesday protests were illegal as no permit had been issued.
The right to peaceful protests is enshrined in the Kenyan constitution but the opposition has in the past held violent protests that have resulted in deaths.
Day schools in Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa were ordered to close by the education minister.
Last week’s protests left more than six people dead and many others injured, including 53 children who went into shock after tear gas was thrown inside their school compound.
Religious leaders have been calling for dialogue between the government and the opposition to end the protests.
Catholic bishops led by Anthony Muheria on Wednesday issued a statement reiterating that “no further blood should be shed” and urged the president to repeal the newly passed Finance Act that has agitated Kenyans.
The new finance law has raised the price of fuel to its highest as the government implements a doubling of value added tax on petroleum products to 16%. The new prices have taken effect despite a court order suspending the implementation of the controversial new taxes.
While Kenyan religious leaders and others urge the president to repeal the finance law to ease growing public frustration, the International Monetary Fund this week called its approval a “crucial” step toward reducing Kenya’s debt vulnerabilities.
Western envoys from 13 countries on Tuesday issued a joint statement calling for dialogue and expressed concern over the loss of lives and destruction of property.
Rights’ group, Human Rights Watch, on Tuesday urged political leaders to stop labelling protesters as “terrorists” and respect the right to peaceful protests. The group called out the police for using force and live bullets to confront protesters.