Kenya on fire as rising prices pitch public and opposition against the government

Streets of Kenya’s major cities continued to witness antigovernment protests over price hikes and new taxes as at least 29 people have been reported dead in recent weeks.

The dire situation has made the country’s major news outlet embark on a joint appeal to the people to stop the protest.

“Let’s save our country,” read an identical banner headline across the front pages of the Daily Nation, Standard and other major papers.

The joint article warned that Kenya risks tumbling into “a dark and dangerous abyss,” if its leaders fail to resolve a boiling crisis that has destabilized one of Africa’s strongest democracies.

Police and demonstrators clashed again in Nairobi on Thursday in the second of three days of planned nationwide protests against soaring food and fuel prices and steep tax hikes in what is seen as the gravest challenge to the nearly year-old rule of President William Ruto.

The police, sometimes fired live ammunition and tear gas, as the running battles continued on the streets. The situation made many businesses and schools close on Wednesday as protests erupted in 13 of Kenya’s 47 counties.

The protests are led by Raila Odinga, the opposition leader who lost to Ruto in last August’s highly disputed presidential election. Odinga had since March been stroking the embers of protests in the country with his claims of election malpractices and mismanaging the economy by Ruto.

With public frustration at the rising cost of living as staple foods’ prices go up, the people have now joined in the open protests.

Many believe that Kenya’s economic woes are largely due to the impacts of global happenings like the Russian / Ukraine war and rising interest rates as well as a large legacy debt of almost $61 billion, which was inherited by the Ruto administration.

But the Kenyan president has not helped matters with some of his harsh economic policies, like the new housing tax, and his uncompromising stance toward critics. He has consistently vowed to crush dissents and protests.

Most of the protests are against the increase of the fuel tax to 16 per cent and the new Finance Bill, signed into law by Ruto last month, which includes an unpopular 1.5 per cent levy on salaried workers for a housing and jobs fund.  The Act has already been declared unconstitutional by a Kenyan court but Ruto is bent on implementing it.

“Listen to me carefully. You cannot use extrajudicial, extra-constitutional means to look for power in Kenya. Wait for 2027. I will beat you again,” he said in a speech last week.

Kenya’s national statistics agency has revealed that the protests are costing the country about $20 million a day apart from many lost foreign investment and

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