Live Updates: Casualties Reported as Police Fire on Protesters in Kenya

Kenya’s lawmakers passed a contentious finance bill on Tuesday even as thousands of demonstrators marched toward Parliament in the capital, Nairobi, hoping to persuade the government to scrap the tax increases that they say will make life onerous for millions of people.

The police used tear gas in an attempt to keep the protesters away from the Parliament building, and the sound of live fire rang out. Two wounded people were seen lying on the ground.

The debate over the bill has shaken Kenya, an East African economic powerhouse of 54 million people that has long been an anchor of stability in a deeply tumultuous region. Protesters have taken to the streets in cities around the country for days. As thousands protested over the tax increases across the country last week, at least one person was killed and 200 others were injured, according to Amnesty International.

On Tuesday, CNN aired footage of the half-sister of former U.S. President Barack Obama, Auma Obama, being tear-gassed as she was interviewed about her opposition to the bill.

The contentious bill was introduced by the government of President William Ruto in May to raise revenue and limit borrowing in an economy facing a heavy debt burden. But Kenyans have widely criticized the legislation, saying it adds punitive new taxes and raises others on a wide range of goods and services that would escalate living costs.

The president now has two weeks to sign the legislation into law or send it back to Parliament for further amendments.

Crowds of protesters in Nairobi on Tuesday.Credit…Monicah Mwangi/Reuters

Before Tuesday’s demonstration, several activists who are prominent critics of the bill were abducted, according to the Law Society of Kenya. The abductors’ identities were not publicly known, but some were believed to be intelligence officers, said the Law Society’s president, Faith Odhiambo. Ms. Odhiambo later said that some of those abducted had been released.

Rights groups have long accused successive Kenyan governments of kidnapping critics and torturing them. The police did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, but Kenya’s chief justice, Martha Koome, condemned the abductions, calling them “a direct assault” on the rule of law.

Last week, as demonstrators packed the streets, lawmakers scrapped some taxes, including on bread, cooking oil and cars. But protesters have denounced other taxes, including on imported goods, and have urged the government to abandon the draft legislation.

“The audacity to raise taxes during these hard economic times, not listen to our concerns and then mistreat us shows how tone deaf the government is and how they don’t care about us,” said Kasmuel McOure, 26, a musician who was participating in Tuesday’s protests.

Detractors of the bill have pointed to corruption and mismanagement of funds, and faulted the opulent lifestyle and extravagant spending that they say have characterized the administration of Mr. Ruto, who has been in office since 2022. Kenyans have also faulted Mr. Ruto for reneging on campaign promises to champion the welfare of the poor and the interests of the striving Kenyans he called “hustlers.”

Opposition members of Kenya’s Parliament had rejected the draft legislation in its totality.

Protesters chanting antigovernment slogans as some of them climbed onto a police water cannon truck in Nairobi on Tuesday.Credit…Luis Tato/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As the protests got underway on Tuesday, activists and critics said the early-morning abductions of some activists showed that the government was not ready to engage in a sincere dialogue.

Several protesters, including Mr. McOure, said they had received threats or intimidating phone calls in the days and hours leading up to the protests and were fearing for their lives, although they said they would not be silenced.

“No matter what they do, we will remain unbowed in our demand that we reject the finance bill,” Mr. McOure said.

In Nairobi on Tuesday.Credit…Monicah Mwangi/Reuters

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