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Kenya’s Catholic Bishops Condemn “in strongest terms” Police Brutality, Killings as Anti-Tax Protests Rock Major Cities

Kenya’s Catholic Bishops Condemn “in strongest terms” Police Brutality, Killings as Anti-Tax Protests Rock Major Cities

By Agnes Aineah

Members of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB)  have strongly condemned the killing of a section of protesters, who took to the streets in major Kenyan cities and townships to oppose the country’s controversial proposed Finance Bill 2024.

Protesters with different degrees of injuries, some fatal and with gunshot wounds, were admitted at various medical facilities in Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, after the Tuesday, June 25 anti-tax protests turned violent, with Kenyan police opening fire on individuals who were engaged in the protests.

At the height of the violence, suspected police officers fired at demonstrators who stormed the Kenyan parliament, reportedly killing at least five of the protesters outside parliament. Bodies were also seen lying on the streets near parliament buildings, where legislators were discussing the controversial Bill.

Other injured people, who appeared to be in critical condition were brought to the premises of Holy Family Minor Basilica of Kenya’s  Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi (ADN), where paramedics had pitched a tent to treat the injured protesters.

As the protests continued, a section of KCCB members quickly convened a press conference at Roussel House of Donum Dei Missionary Sisters in Karen, Nairobi, calling for calm across the East African nation. They also criticized the police for using excessive force to stop the protests.


“We, the Catholic Bishops, while appreciating several occasions the police have tried to act rightly, decry and condemn in the strongest terms, the use of force by the police, the arrests, and the indiscriminate and unnecessary use of live bullets,” the Catholic Bishops said.

In their six-page eight-point collective statement that was read out in turns, beginning with KCCB Chairman, Archbishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba, they added, “Unwarranted attacks on peaceful protesters cannot be justified. The police have many ways to ensure protests remain peaceful.”

“The police should focus on criminals who implant themselves in peaceful protests to create chaos and rob or destroy property. As a country, we have seen demonstrations and protests in the past,” KCCB members said.

They asked the police to only ensure peaceful assemblies in the country instead of fuelling violence and public hate towards the police department.

Generation Z (Gen Z)-led protests against Kenya’s Finance Bill 2024 started on June 18, the day the Bill was tabled in parliament for debate, with hundreds of youths and some human rights activists taking to the streets of Nairobi to urge the legislators not to vote for the Bill during its second reading that was scheduled for June 20.

On June 20, the Gen Z-led protests took place in at least 18 Kenyan cities and townships, with protestors saying they are not satisfied with the announced amendments to the Bill that aim to raise US$2.7 billion through additional taxes and want the entire Bill rejected. 

Kenya’s legislators approved the Bill in its second reading with 204 votes in favor and 115 against. The proposed Bill, protestors say, is set to raise the cost of living for an average Kenyan, who is already struggling to survive.

The legislators met again on Tuesday, June 25, and approved the proposed amendments to the Finance Bill 2024, with apposition legislators opposed to the entire Bill having withdrawn their respective amendments. 

Kenya’s President William Samoei Ruto has two options: to sign it into law within the stipulated 14 days or return it to the legislators for further amendments.

Irked by the developments, Kenyan youths led the street protests across the country, chanting “Ruto must go” and “Zakayo shuka” slogans, the latter a favourable comparison of President Ruto to Zacchaeus, the wealthy chief tax collector, who was asked by Jesus Christ to come down from the sycamore-fig tree he had climbed to have a glimpse of Jesus. 

At the intervention of the police, the protests turned violent, with protesters burning government property, especially in Nairobi. Among properties that were set ablaze was a section of the parliament and the building that houses the office of the Governor of Nairobi County, Johnson Sakaja

Several vehicles and other buildings were also set on fire in different Kenyan cities and townships, including those associated with Kenyan politicians, who have expressed support for the controversial Bill.

Police also stormed Holy Family Basilica, throwing teargas canisters at paramedics, who were offering their services to the injured protesters.

In their collective statement with names of 29 KCCB members, the Catholic Bishops in Kenya appealed for respect to places of worship, saying, “Remember places of worship are not our own. We cannot pretend to take them as if they were ours. They are God’s space and therefore we can’t use them for any other agenda but that which relates to God.”

“Churches accommodate people irrespective of their opinions or political standing. However, we emphasize that we, the Catholic Bishops, have issued clear guidelines to our priests and pastoral agents not to use liturgical spaces for political agitation of any kind. All are welcome and should feel at home in our churches but respect the places of worship,” they said.

The KCCB members warned that the Bill, which they said had “elicited reactions mostly of resistance from Kenyans”, would add pain to many families if adopted in its current form.

The Bishops observed that Kenyans are already suffering the consequences of adopting the 2023/24 Finance Bill that was signed into law. They recalled that as a Church body, they had already raised their concerns about the Finance Bill 2024/25.

The Catholic Bishops, however, expressed regret that their suggestions on the revisions of the draft Bill had not been pit into consideration.

They acknowledged the importance of paying taxes, noting, however, that the government must not overtax its citizens. The government, KCCB members said, should also “not be in denial about its intended excessive taxation.”

“The country is bleeding and therefore we invite the Government to reflect on this matter with the seriousness it deserves,” they emphasized in their June 25 collective statement. 

The Catholic Church leaders praised the young people leading the protests for being “alive to the negative impact punitive taxes have in their own lives”, and added, “The government needs to face the plain truth that families are immensely suffering.”

“Young people have reached a point of taking it upon themselves to express discontent with the insensitivity of the Government to these unwarranted taxes that only raise the cost of living,” they said. 

KCCB members further appealed to President Ruto-led government to listen to the pain of Kenyans caused by the high cost of living, warning that ignoring the people’s cries would only escalate tensions in the country and plunge the youths into deeper despair.

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