Kenyan opposition supporters react and throw stones towards Kenya Police officers during demonstrations in Nairobi, Kenya on July 12, 2023. Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has called once again for countrywide demonstrations on Wednesday as he puts pressure on President William Ruto's administration. Opposition leaders accuse the government of being illegitimate while failing to tackle the high cost of living as they have launched a national campaign to raise signatures from Kenyans in their push to remove President William Ruto from office.

Kenyan opposition supporters react and throw stones towards Kenya Police officers during demonstrations in Nairobi, Kenya on July 12, 2023.

Photo by LUIS TATO/AFP via Getty Images.

Protests Against Cost of Living Turn Deadly in Kenya; Opposition Vows to Continue Demonstrations

As the Kenyan government doubles the tax on petroleum from 8% to 16%, protestors and police clash in the streets.

A police official revealed that six individuals were killed on Wednesday during fresh protests in Kenya, denouncing the escalating cost of living. Simultaneously, a health worker reported that over 50 schoolchildren in Nairobi, the capital, were exposed to tear gas. The opposition leader spearheading the demonstrations declared their determination to persist until a newly enacted tax law is repealed.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to speak publicly, the police official informed The Associated Press that three fatalities occurred in Mlolongo city in Machakos county, two in Kitengela town near Nairobi, and one in the town of Emali on the highway leading to the port city of Mombasa. The official also stated that more than 10 other individuals were hospitalized.

The police official attributed the deaths of the six protesters to their disruption of businesses, refraining from providing further details. Police forces have faced criticism from human rights organizations for their at times lethal response to such protests.

Raila Odinga, the opposition leader who lost last year's election to President William Ruto, has consistently called on Kenyans to protest as the country grapples with debt and soaring prices. The introduction of new taxes has intensified frustrations within East Africa's economic hub, with inflation hovering around 8%.

During a press briefing on Wednesday, Odinga vowed to continue these protests and accused the police of impeding access to the location where he had planned to deliver a speech. He further criticized the police for employing excessive force against demonstrators, asserting that their engagements were peaceful until the police intervened.

The recent doubling of taxes on petroleum products, including gasoline, from 8% to 16% is expected to have a cascading impact. While most Kenyans either carry on with their daily routines or remain at home during such demonstrations, the economic ramifications of the protests pose an additional challenge for President Ruto, who secured his election victory by appealing to Kenyans as a fellow "hustler" from a humble background, promising to alleviate their financial burdens.

Lilian Anyango, a resident of Nairobi, expressed her distress, stating, "Our children are not going to school, we are unable to afford food. Now we cannot go to work due to the protests. We are left with no options. We do not know how to navigate the current government."

Human rights organizations have chastised the police for insisting on prior notification of any demonstration "in the interest of national security." Kenya's constitution guarantees the right to peacefully protest.

In Nairobi, dozens of protesters resorted to burning tires and dismantling a portion of an entrance to a recently constructed expressway, as the unrest continued to escalate.