Business disrupted in Nairobi as police clash with protesters

Nairobi’s Central Business District was turned into a battlefield between police and protesters on Tuesday ahead of the tabling of the report on the controversial Finance Bill 2024 in the National Assembly.

Business was disrupted on several streets in the city as protesters chanted slogans against the government over massive taxation.

They complained about the components of the bill, saying they were punitive and not a solution to the current tough economic times in the country.

Plainclothes policemen arrested protesters wearing black T-shirts on several streets, while there was a heavy presence of uniformed officers almost everywhere in the capital.

“Mtatukamata wote” (They will have to arrest us all) shouted a boda boda rider on Moi Avenue in Nairobi’s Central Business District.

The driver and his colleagues jeered as plainclothes officers arrested four men and bundled them into their vehicle.

Another police lorry packed with protesters was parked near the road where the once-famous Hilton Hotel used to stand.

At the Tom Mboya statue, one of Nairobi’s main rendezvous points, police officers were on high alert and dispersed any gatherings, fearing they might be part of the protesters.

Only journalists were allowed to sit in the area around the statue. At one point, a young man shouted at the officers, reminding them that while they were being used to contain the demonstrations, they were not exempt from the heat of the harsh economy.

There was a heavy police presence along Harambee Avenue towards Parliament, adjacent to the Treasury building, and passers-by were closely watched.

In the downtown areas of Ronald Ngala Street, Muthurwa, Koja and adjoining areas, business was good but most traders supported the demonstrations, saying the cost of living had deteriorated coupled with high taxes.

“They are now claiming that they have removed some of the taxes on products, but I don’t believe them. President Ruto is a man full of lies and his policies have killed our businesses,” said Martha Wairimu, a businesswoman at Muthurwa market.

Gunshots filled the air and tear gas was a common sight in most parts of the CBD, including outside the Nation Centre and on the roads leading to Parliament.

With news of the protest all over social media, many motorists opted to leave their vehicles at home. The Aghakan Walk Packing Area, which is always full, did not have as many vehicles, while the car parks adjacent to City Hall, Garden Square and areas around KICC were also not full.

The last time Nairobi witnessed such chaos was during the Azimio La Umoja’s ‘maandamano‘ anti-government protests called by opposition leader Raila Odinga last year.

The report on Finance Bill 2024 is expected to be tabled by the Chairperson of the National Assembly’s Planning and Finance Committee, Kuria Kimani, on Tuesday afternoon.

MPs have until 27 June this month to either reject or pass the bill, after the budget for the 2024/25 financial year was read on Friday last week.

 

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