On Wednesday, Kenya witnessed clashes between police and protesters demanding the government to address the high cost of living, resulting in four protesters being injured in Nairobi’s Mathare area. The opposition had called for three days of countrywide protests, despite President William Ruto’s vow to confront opposition leader Raila Odinga and prevent the demonstrations.
Throughout the country, businesses remained closed as police utilized tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters in various regions, including Kisumu, Migori, and Kisii, where the opposition garnered significant support. The protests were deemed illegal by the police, citing the absence of a permit.
Education Minister’s orders led to the closure of day schools in Nairobi and Mombasa as the situation escalated. Previous protests had already left six people dead, and last week’s events resulted in injuries to numerous others, including 53 shocked children due to tear gas exposure at their school compound.
Religious leaders, led by Catholic bishops like Anthony Muheria, urged the government and the opposition to engage in dialogue to end the protests, emphasizing the importance of preventing further bloodshed. Their primary demand was the repeal of the recently passed Finance Act, which caused discontent among Kenyans. The Act raised fuel prices significantly by doubling value-added tax on petroleum products to 16%, despite a court order suspending the implementation of such taxes.
Western envoys from 13 countries also called for dialogue, expressing concern over the loss of lives and property destruction. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch urged political leaders to stop labeling protesters as terrorists and respect their right to peaceful demonstrations, condemning the use of force and live ammunition by the police.
Though the Kenyan constitution protects the right to peaceful protests, past demonstrations organized by the opposition have turned violent, resulting in fatalities. Despite these challenges, the situation demands a peaceful resolution and an earnest effort from both parties to address the concerns raised by the protesters.