National human rights defender demands release of 105 arrested in protests

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has called for the immediate release of people arrested during the ‘Occupy Parliament’ protests.

In a statement on Friday, the human rights lobby said a total of 105 people were arrested and 200 injured during the ongoing protests.

They include Nairobi (20), Garissa (2), Kisumu (3), Vihiga (4), Narok (4), Uasin Gishu (70), and Nakuru (2).

Only 14 people have been released so far, according to the commission.

It has also called for a thorough investigation into the death of Rex Masai, a 29-year-old man allegedly gunned down by a police officer on Thursday night.

In a statement, KNHCR Chairperson Roselyn Odede faulted the police officers for unleashing violence against the anti-Finance Bill 2024 peaceful protesters and called on authorities to restrain themselves.

“KNCHR would once again like to commend protestors for the peaceful manner in which they conducted themselves during the demonstrations. The protestors who were mostly young men and women were peaceful despite provocation by the police who confronted them with teargas, live bullets, batons as well as water cannons,” Ms Odede said in a statement.

“The Commission therefore demands that thorough investigations be carried out in regards to the death of Rex Masai and all those injured in the protest, especially those who suffered bullet wounds. All illegally detained persons following Thursday’s protests be released unconditionally.”

The commission further called upon the government to facilitate the rights of the protesters by providing adequate security and maintaining law and order during the protests.

“The government has an obligation to facilitate the rights of protesters through the provision of security to ensure law and order. Any restriction to the right to Freedom of assembly must conform with the law,” read the statement.

Thousands of Kenyans, mostly youth, showed up on Tuesday and Thursday to protest against the high taxes imposed by the government through the Finance Bill, 2024.

The demonstrations, largely peaceful, were held across the country.

The protests mostly led by Gen Zs were organised on social media with the protesters using #OccupyParliament and #RejectFinanceBill2024 to mobilise and coordinate their meeting points across the capital city Nairobi and other parts of the country.

The initial plan of the protesters was to occupy the parliament buildings and stop the MPs from voting on the Bill.

The protests paralysed business operations in the capital city with most of the roads closed as the protesters engaged the police in running battles.

President William Ruto bowed to pressure on Tuesday and dropped some of the proposed tax measures such as a 16 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on bread, 2.5 percent motor vehicle tax and the eco-levy tax which will now apply to imported finished goods.

The government also announced that some taxes such as Housing Levy, SHIF and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) have been proposed to be tax deductible to avoid double taxation.

This did not however stop the protesters who are now demanding the recall of the contested finance bill.

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