Hundreds gather for memorial concert after deadly Kenya protests

The initially peaceful rallies mostly led by Gen-Z spiralled into violence that left 39 people dead, rights groups said (Tony KARUMBA)
The initially peaceful rallies mostly led by Gen-Z spiralled into violence that left 39 people dead, rights groups said (Tony KARUMBA)

Hundreds of Kenyans gathered Sunday in the capital Nairobi for a memorial concert following deadly protests over tax hikes that saw the country's leader scrap a controversial finance bill.

The initially peaceful rallies mostly led by Gen-Z spiralled into violence that left 39 people dead, rights groups have said, and saw President William Ruto reject the bill containing the hikes and promise spending cuts.

On Sunday people streamed into Nairobi's central Uhuru Park from around midday to listen to performers and commemorate those who had died.

Victor Waithaka, 29, told AFP he was attending to pay tribute to the "heroes who died during the protests on the rejected finance bill".

"This is our country, and we have the right to fight for our rights," he said.

Large crowds called "Ruto must go", echoing demands made by protesters in previous weeks, and waved Kenyan flags as they danced to a medley of singers and performers.

"The fight has just begun, the political awakening [is] just the beginning," prominent demonstrator Hanifa Adan told AFP on the concert's sidelines.

Early Sunday morning some roads in the city were blocked by police officers.

The concert fell on so-called "Saba Saba" (Seven Seven) -- the seventh day of the seventh month, marking the moment in 1990 that the opposition rose up to demand the return of multi-party democracy -- and a day when demonstrations have previously taken place.

It follows Ruto's decision on Friday to announce budget cuts and increased borrowing, in an effort to cover the projected shortfall from scrapping the finance bill.

Following his speech, the president also took part in a sometimes fiery exchange of views on X, in a wide-ranging conversation with younger Kenyans on the social media platform.

bur-rbu/giv