Mass arrests in Kenya as angry citizens protest against tax hikes

Protests have erupted in parts of Kenya, with hundreds detained by police as citizens rejected planned tax hikes in the East African nation already grappling with escalating living costs.

Civil society groups said that at least 283 people have been arrested since Tuesday as protests flared over the proposed hikes.

The government faced backlash in the capital Nairobi on Tuesday over the controversial bill and was forced to amend it after dozens of demonstrators rallied outside the country’s parliament building.

Among the taxes suspended was a 16% value-added tax on bread and a 2.5% tax on motor vehicles, a statement from Kenya’s presidency said.

A proposed increase in mobile money transfer fees was also shelved along with taxes on vegetable oil. Additionally, levies on locally produced products, such as diapers and sanitary towels, have been dropped.

However, some Kenyans were not pleased with the changes and have called for the bill to be scrapped completely.

“We are rejecting the whole thing,” Kenyan John Wills Njoroge wrote on social media platform X. “We didn’t ask for amendments. We asked for the withdrawal of the entire bill,” he added.

Videos posted on social media Wednesday showed a group of protesters marching in the rain in Mombassa to express their displeasure over the bill.

In another location, protesters could be heard chanting: “Reject, not amend.”

Earlier on Wednesday, CNN affiliate NTV shared footage of police dispersing Mombasa protesters with teargas.

It’s not immediately known whether any arrests have been made in Mombasa, Kenya’s second-largest city.

Amnesty International’s Kenya office said it was “deeply outraged by the arbitrary arrest of peaceful protestors” in Nairobi on Tuesday.

The human rights organization said that the Kenyan Police Service had “shown a blatant disregard for the right to protest, opting instead to silence dissent through force and intimidation.”

CNN has contacted the Kenyan Police Service for comment.

An alliance of civil society groups called for the unconditional release of detained protesters, which it said included journalists.

“The use of excessive force, intimidation of civilians, violation of privacy through physical searches and arbitrary arrests is an outright infringement of the constitutional rights of the people of Kenya,” the alliance said.

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