Kenya's Ruto says finance bill to be withdrawn after anti-tax protest deaths

Kenyan President William Ruto on Wednesday said he would withdraw planned tax rises, bowing to pressure after deadly demonstations saw protesters storming parliament and threatening more action this week.

"I concede and therefore I will not sign the 2024 finance bill and it shall subsequently be withdrawn," Ruto told a press briefing, adding: "The people have spoken."

The government plan to raise taxes to pay off Kenya's spiralling national debt sparked protests that turned violent on Tuesday. The state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said it had recorded 22 deaths and 300 injured victims.

"Listening keenly to the people of Kenya who have said loudly that they want nothing to do with this finance bill 2024, I concede. And therefore, I will not sign the 2024 finance bill, and it shall subsequently be withdrawn," he said in a televised address.

Ruto said he would now start a dialogue with Kenyan youth, without going into details, and work on austerity measures – starting with cuts to the budget of the presidency – to make up the difference in the country's finances.

The move will be seen as a major victory for a week-old protest movement that grew from online condemnations of tax increases into mass rallies demanding a political overhaul, in the most serious crisis of Ruto's two-year-old presidency.

Heavily armed police patrolled the streets of the capital Nairobi, which were quieter than usual on Wednesday.

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