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Kenyans plan peaceful protests over the Finance Bill

As lawmakers begin debate on the Finance Bill, 2024 today, Kenyans are set to hold protests outside Parliament to dissuade them from passing it. “Occupy Parliament – Citizens, rise against over taxation by Zakayo” flyers were being distributed to passers-by on Monday, June 17, as others were pasted on the walls of buildings.

“Zakayo” is a moniker for President William Ruto. Social media has been the main platform through which Kenyans have rallied to protest to ensure that the President and parliamentarians hear the plight of Kenyans.

Activist Boniface Mwangi told the Nation on the phone that all is set for the protest, with demonstrators expected to show up at 12pm, about two hours before the Parliament session starts.

“We have notified the police. I even sent a message to the Inspector-General of Police Japhet Koome informing him of our plans over the weekend. We will be in thousands, nothing less, we will fill all streets in Nairobi, we will occupy Parliament,” he said.

Today will be the second reading of the Bill, with the report of the Finance and Planning Committee being presented. The Bill will then wait for the third reading followed by voting.

“This first march is to tell the members of Parliament that we are watching them closely and that we will not allow them to pass legislation that we do not want. They have to listen to us,” Mr Mwangi said.

For Shadrach Kiprono, a finance professional in Nairobi whom we met while he handed out the Occupy Parliament flyers along Moi Avenue, the Finance Bill 2024 is an insult to hardworking Kenyans. “I am inviting people to come and protest the Finance Bill tomorrow (today) outside Parliament. We are protesting against increased taxation. I am not an activist by the way, I am just concerned,” he said.

By Monday morning, posters informing residents to turn up for the protests were being distributed not only within the streets in Nairobi CBD but across the estates. Protesters have been advised on how to dress and urged to carry placards.

A code of conduct was also released yesterday, asking protesters to be peaceful and to maintain their cool even when harassed. “Bring a friend, do not walk alone. Document and share your location with your family and friends,” the code stated. An emergency number,0716200200, was also shared to be used in case of arrest, with lawyers stationed at police stations. The police, in preparation for the march, have been holding meetings to plan how they will handle the protests.

Beginning last week, Kenyans expressed their displeasure with the Finance Bill as they posted MPs’ contacts on social media and urged each other to contact their leaders and ask them to shoot down the Bill. National Assembly Majority Whip Sylvanus Osoro revealed that he and his colleagues had received thousands of messages directing them to reject the Bill. “I want to tell them that we will not reject it because we must fund the government, but we are going to reject contentious clauses,” he said. ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna lauded the civil awakening. He added that the party had directed its legislators to ensure they are in Parliament during the consideration of the Bill.

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