Kenya: William Ruto appoints new chief of defense forces

Kenya: President Ruto withdraws 2024-25 budget amid violence

After deadly demonstrations and strong public opposition, Kenyan President William Ruto announced this Wednesday, June 26, the withdrawal of the 2024-25 draft budget, which provided for tax increases.

Kenyan President William Ruto has taken the decision to withdraw the 2024-25 budget bill following a wave of violent protests that rocked the country. The announcement, made on Wednesday, June 26, 2024, follows a series of mass protests against tax hikes in the budget bill that turned violent, resulting in the deaths of 23 people, according to the official human rights watchdog.

“After listening carefully to the Kenyan people who have made it clear that they want nothing to do with this 2024 Finance Bill, I bow down and will not be signing the 2024 Finance Bill into law, which will therefore be withdrawn,” said William Ruto in a speech that clearly showed his retreat in the face of intense public pressure.

The draft budget had been adopted by Parliament, dominated by the presidential Kenya Kwanza party, but the decision provoked immediate anger among protesters in Nairobi. The situation quickly escalated when the crowd stormed Parliament and damaged and then set fire to some buildings. The violence spread to other towns, including Eldoret, where buildings were also set on fire. Several NGOs reported that the police fired live ammunition at the demonstrators.

Ruto calls for national consultation

In response to the current crisis in Kenya, President Ruto has called for national consultation. “Since we got rid of the 2024 Finance Bill, there is a need to have a conversation as a nation going forward. (…) How can we manage our debt situation together? (…) I will propose a commitment with the young people of our nation, our sons and our daughters”he said, emphasizing the need for inclusive dialogue to find lasting solutions to the country’s economic challenges.

The controversial budget proposal aimed to increase tax revenues to address Kenya’s public debt, which represents around 70% of GDP, and finance an ambitious spending program of 4,000 billion shillings (29 billion euros) to 2024-25. However, these measures were seen as a heavy burden for citizens already experiencing economic difficulties.

On the international stage, the United States has called for restraint and respect for the right to demonstrate. “The United States has been in contact with the Kenyan government to call for appropriate use of force by police,” said John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, condemning the violence against innocent and peaceful protesters.