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New tax regime approved by US, IMF: Call to Kenyan masses to intensify struggle

By Harsh Thakor 

Kenyan Police killed six protesters and detained over 300 on July 19 in a merciless crackdown on the protests against the US-IMF backed Finance Act 2023. Up to 23 people have perished in the crackdown by the police on the recent protests in Kenya against the new tax regime introduced in the Finance Act 2023, with sanctioning of the US and IMF.
On the 7th of July ignited massive protests engulfing Kenya, mainly in the capital, Nairobi, as well as in other two important cities, Mombasa and Kisumu. Anti-government demonstrators in Kenya lit bonfires and blocked major roads in the capital Friday as part of nationwide protests against the government’s plans to increase taxes. Hundreds of protesters turned up in Nairobi, as well as in the coastal city of Mombasa and the lakeside city of Kisumu, where the opposition enjoys huge support.
These protests caused the closure of multiple businesses. After the first day of riots, there were more than 20 people in police captivity. These protests were instigated because the government lead by Ruto, decided to raise taxes, including the taxes to the fuel and construct new ones to housing of workers. One Kenyan worker, Wafula, stated: “wants to tax the little money we have in our pockets. What will we eat?”
For weeks the masses have flooded streets and protested, at the cost of risking their lives during these protests. Since the first week of protests, the latter ones have been intensified, since the Friday 14th of July. Atleast 35 people were killed by the police since the protests began, and there were more than 300 people detained just the last week and waiting for trials for waging struggle against the police. Police brutality is a routine affair these weeks of protests, but even with this situation, the masses relentlessly march on the streets, facing the police. A most significant crystallisation or polarisation of Kenyan people, challenging Imperialism and the Kenyan state in it’s very backyard.

Police Embarrassed

In fact, repressive forces are shivering because there were meetings between high rank police officers, and are perturbed, because of the scarce funds and resources to handle the protests and the expanding organization of the demonstrators. Ahead of a three-day protest called for by Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party leader Raila Odinga, the the top brass of the police service had a long meeting to investigate into what might have led to the police's failure to control the crowds. It was discovered from the meeting that the officers were tired by the protests and lacked proper anti-riot gear to handle rioters.
The latest demonstrations were staged against tax hikes and a sequel of two previous sets of protests this year against the soaring cost of living in East Africa’s economic hub and alleged malpractice in last year’s presidential election.
These new protests illustrate that people and the working class cannot trust the politicians manifesting bureaucratic capitalism. In the case of Kenya, the President Ruto announced in September of 2022 that he will introduce a tax reform in order to serve the poor and make the rich pay more. However betraying these promises, the situation aggravated the working class and the people of Kenya, and ignited mass struggle with huge protests in March and a brutal police repression was unleashed by the old Kenyan State.
Regarding Kenya, in 2022 Ruto already stated that the economical situation was in turmoil. Kenya is a semi-colonial and semi-feudal county in where the debt is strangulating the State’s economy and troubling bureaucratic capitalism. Kenya is bound or trapped by Yankee imperialism, which is monitoring the old Kenyan State by governing which things should be done. This was illustrated with the loan of 1 billion US-Dollar made by the World Bank on May of this year. This paved way for Kenya to sanction tax reforms, with several raises of taxes. In July, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also passed another loan of 1 billion US-Dollars for Kenya.
During he merciless repression Yankee imperialism patronised or sanctioned Kenyan leader, Ruto, crediting him with opening avenues for business in Kenya stating that these ones “give Americans safety on investing in the country”. The IMF also greeted Ruto due to these measures applied in Kenya, stating that now “Kenya is open for business.”. Maximum leeway is given to US to plunder the resources of Kenya and suck it’s labour.

Challenge by and to Opposition

Opposition leader Raila Odinga called on followers to refrain the taxes, and for “civil disobedience” to protest them, including nationwide demonstrations The implementation of some of the new tax provisions has been suspended by a court pending a case filed by an opposition senator challenging their legality. The government has, however, implemented the increased fuel tax.
At a rally on Friday in Nairobi, Odinga declared a petition drive to get 10 million Kenyans to sign an impeachment motion against President Ruto. However, it was overruled with the Kenyan constitution granting impeachment powers only to the national assembly, which is governed by the ruling party.
The parliamentary opposition to Ruto also is being exposed by the masses who tried to capitalise on the situation and attempted to persuade the masses to participate in a parliamentary programme against the government in order to change the president They also staged peaceful demonstrations. Bravely, masses opposed such reformist moves, ignored the proposals and faced the police. Significantly, the leadership of the opposition, Raila Odinga, abstained from last mobilizations, and the main party of opposition, Azimio La Umoja, cancelled all the demonstrations of this week except the one on Wednesday 26th of July.
Despite the threats or the steps of the parliamentary opposition to Ruto, imperialism and the old Kenyan State have invited the wrath of the proletariat and the people of Kenya are stirred to the brim.. They are relentlessly battling the repressive forces the State.
Communist Party of Kenya (CPK), whose member Harris Ochieng was assassinated on July 7, termed the attack as “the resurgence of the oppressive police state.” The party declared in a statement on July 20, “We shall not allow peace without justice to prevail. We call upon all Kenyan masses to intensify the mass offensive until concrete proposals are put forward to dismantle all anti-people policies set out by the Kenya Kwanza kleptocracy.”
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Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who studies world affairs. Thanks information from Peoples Dispatch, Red Herald, Al Jazeera and ABC News

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