Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops Condemn Violence in Anti-Tax Protests

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) has strongly denounced the fatal shootings and injuries of protesters opposing the controversial Finance Bill 2024. During the June 25 demonstrations in Nairobi, police reportedly opened fire, resulting in several deaths and injuries among the protesters.

The violent protests escalated when demonstrators stormed the Kenyan parliament, leading to the death of at least five protesters outside the building. Injured individuals, some critically, were taken to various medical facilities, and some received emergency treatment at Holy Family Minor Basilica in Nairobi, where paramedics had set up a tent.

In response to the violence, KCCB members convened a press conference at Donum Dei Missionary Sisters’ Roussel House in Karen, Nairobi, urging calm and condemning the excessive use of force by the police. Archbishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba, KCCB Chairman, and other bishops criticized the police for using live bullets and emphasized the need for peaceful assemblies.

The bishops acknowledged that the police have a duty to maintain order but stressed that force and live ammunition were unnecessary. They called for a focus on preventing criminals from exploiting peaceful protests to cause chaos.

Protests against the Finance Bill 2024, led by Generation Z and human rights activists, began on June 18. The bill, aimed at raising $2.7 billion through additional taxes, was met with strong opposition due to concerns about its impact on the cost of living. Despite protests, the bill passed its second reading in parliament on June 20 with 204 votes in favor and 115 against. On June 25, legislators approved amendments to the bill, further fueling the protests.

President William Ruto now faces a decision to sign the bill into law or return it for further amendments. Protests intensified with chants of “Ruto must go” and “Zakayo shuka,” comparing President Ruto to the biblical tax collector Zacchaeus.

Violence during the protests included the burning of government property in Nairobi, including sections of the parliament and the office of the Nairobi County Governor. The police also stormed Holy Family Basilica, using teargas against paramedics treating the injured.

The KCCB appealed for the respect of places of worship, emphasizing that churches should not be used for political purposes. They warned that the Finance Bill 2024, if adopted in its current form, would exacerbate the suffering of Kenyan families already burdened by the 2023/24 Finance Bill.

The bishops expressed regret that their suggestions for revising the bill had been ignored and emphasized the need for the government to avoid excessive taxation. They commended the young protesters for their awareness of the negative impact of punitive taxes and urged the government to address the grievances of Kenyans to prevent further escalation of tensions and despair among the youth.

In their June 25 statement, the Catholic leaders urged the government to take the matter seriously and listen to the voices of the suffering populace.

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