“Stop killing our children,” enraged Raila Odinga tells William Ruto

"Stop killing our children," enraged Raila Odinga tells William Ruto
Opposition Leader Raila Odinga has urged President William Ruto to delay signing the Finance Bill into law until the grievances of the young generation are addressed.

Nairobi, Kenya | By Michael Wandati | Kenya’s opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has urged President William Ruto’s administration to stop the “murders, arrests, and detention” of youths protesting the Finance Bill 2024.

Mr. Odinga’s comments come as the nation faces widespread protests against proposed tax increases, which escalated into a nationwide “total shutdown” on Tuesday 25, June 2024.

The Finance Bill protests escalated into violence as police deployed tear gas and live ammunition against demonstrators.

Last week, the government rescinded some tax increases, including a proposed 16% Value-Added Tax (VAT) on bread, and levies on motor vehicles, vegetable oil, and mobile money transfers.

Despite these concessions, protests continue amid the rising cost of living.

The budget controversy follows other revenue-raising measures introduced by President Ruto, including increased taxes for healthcare and low-cost housing.

In a statement, Mr. Odinga condemned the government’s use of force against peaceful protesters, which has resulted in several deaths.

“The escalation of protests, which have turned bloody with several protesters being shot dead by police, stems from the arrogance and obstinacy of government officials,” said Mr. Odinga.

He expressed deep concern over the violent crackdown on young protesters exercising their right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

“The government’s actions are unprecedented in Kenya’s 61-year history since independence,” he said.

“The constitution seems to have been suspended, and we cannot allow that. The government has unleashed brute force on our country’s children. We can’t and won’t tolerate any extra minute of this murder spree and violence,” added Mr. Odinga.

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Mr. Odinga called for an immediate end to police violence and the unconditional withdrawal of the Finance Bill, urging the government to engage in dialogue.

He underscored the grievances of the protesting youths, emphasizing that their calls for food, jobs, and a fair hearing should not be met with brutality.

“The immediate trigger for these protests is the Finance Bill. This Bill is not an emergency or a life-and-death matter. The government can suspend the current Finance Bill and revert to the previous Finance Act until a consensus is reached,” he suggested.

Mr. Odinga also called on international bodies such as the East African Community (EAC), the African Union (AU), and the United Nations (UN) to intervene and address the unfolding situation in Kenya, aiming to prevent further loss of life.

“I mourn with the families that have lost loved ones and stand with them in the ongoing struggle for justice and economic liberation,” Mr. Odinga said.

Kenyan President William Ruto condemned Tuesday’s protests, which included the storming of parliament and resulted in at least five fatalities, as “treasonous.” However, he did not address the growing outrage against the controversial Finance Bill that triggered the widespread demonstrations.