Police in Kenya opened fire on protesters in clashes that left at least 12 people wounded Wednesday as the opposition organized demonstrations calling for the government of President William Ruto to lower the cost of living.
The opposition called for three days of countrywide protests aimed at forcing the president to repeal a finance law imposing new taxes. Ruto had vowed that no protests would take place, saying he would take opposition leader Raila Odinga “head-on.”
Four protesters were injured in the Mathare area of the capital, Nairobi, according to a police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media. The Associated Press witnessed one man shot in the shoulder and two others shot in the leg in Mathare.
In Nairobi’s Kangemi area, health records worker Alvin Sikuku told the AP that two young men had been brought into the Eagle Nursing Home clinic. “Police are using live bullets,” he said. One man was shot in the back and severely wounded, and the other was shot in the leg. “We don’t yet know if they were protesting or just walking by,” Sikuku said.
Businesses and schools in Nairobi were closed as police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters.
Demonstrations were reported in several other parts of the country including the western counties of Kisumu, Migori and Kisii where the opposition enjoys huge support.
Police had said the protests were illegal as no permit had been issued, but the right to peaceful protests is enshrined in the Kenyan constitution.
A Nairobi resident, Wycliffe Onyango, said his entire earnings are spent on food. “Right now there is no work going on. We are suffering. I plead with the government to deal with the cost of living,” he added.
The International Monetary Fund this week called the law’s approval a “crucial” step toward reducing Kenya’s debt vulnerabilities.
Western envoys from 13 countries on Tuesday issued a joint statement calling for dialogue and expressed concern over the loss of lives and destruction of property.