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IMMINENT WARNING: 20 PEOPLE ARRESTED IN ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS OVER FINANCIAL REFORM IN NAIROBI

Region of Concern: Kenya

Written By Beatrice Cirrone; Edited by Cameron Munoz

Date: July 7, 2023


Map of Kenya[1]


Event: On July 7, thousands of people demonstrated against the President Ruto-led government in the business district of Nairobi amid nationwide protests over the financial reform. Opposition leader Raila Odinga had supported the protests in previous days to oppose the increase in oil and food taxes. Protesters erected barricades in the city center, blocked two streets, and threw rocks at armed forces. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd and arrested over 20 people.[2] The High Court of Kenya ordered a suspension of the tax increase, but the government proceeded to raise oil prices. A new hearing is scheduled for next Monday. Violence erupted last March when the opposition led by Odinga blamed President Ruto for his failure to handle the rising cost of living and accused him of election fraud for the August 2022 presidential election.[3]


Significance: The arrest of 20 people will very likely further exacerbate the political polarization and social divisions between Odinga’s supporters and pro-government groups, leading to new violence. Protests in the capital's business district are likely to push companies to reduce investment, further aggravating the country's economic crisis and public debt. Odinga will very likely call for a new protest next Monday near institutional buildings in Nairobi, such as the High Court, to put more political pressure on the judicial system. Protesters will likely increase the intensity of the violence, using homemade bombs and ambushes against the police authorities, if the government does not suspend the tax increase. The demonstration will very likely lead to increased deployment of law enforcement and the use of water cannons which will likely result in more violence, repression, and arrest of protesters. Protests spreading to other fragments of the population and manufacturing sectors will likely lead to economic setbacks and cause an increase in the cost of goods and services. Islamic terrorists will likely attempt to increase their power and territorial control of outlying areas due to political unrest.


Recommendations: The Kenyan government should initiate dialogue with opposition leaders, including Odinga, and avoid the use of lethal weapons. The government should deploy additional anti-riot squads near critical infrastructure and institutional buildings, such as the Presidential Palace and Kenyan High Court, providing law enforcement personnel with equipment to counter and react to protesters' violence. Police should secure commercial buildings, such as offices, banks, and shops using metal plates on windows until the protests end. The government would agree to temporary control over food item prices and initiate a dialogue with opposition members about financial reform. The government should agree on temporary control of essential food item prices and start a dialogue with opposition members about financial reform.

 

[1] Nairobi, Kenya by Google Maps

[2] Kenyan police fire teargas at tax protesters in Nairobi, DW, July 2023, https://www.dw.com/en/kenyan-police-fire-teargas-at-tax-protesters-in-nairobi/a-66153292

[3] Kenyan police clash with opposition protesters over tax hikes, Reuters, July 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/kenyan-police-fire-teargas-stop-protests-over-tax-hikes-2023-07-07/

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