Tear gas fired as hundreds protest over Kenya tax hikes

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Nairobi, June 20 (AFP/APP):Kenyan police fired tear gas as hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Nairobi on Thursday, vowing nation-wide demonstrations against tax hikes that many fear will worsen a cost-of-living crisis.

                  The cash-strapped government of President William Ruto agreed to make concessions on Tuesday after hundreds of mostly young protesters clashed with the police in the capital.

                  But the government will still go ahead with some tax increases and has defended the proposed hikes as necessary for filling its coffers and cutting reliance on external borrowing.

                  Protesters have vowed to stage demonstrations across the country, including in the Indian Ocean city of Mombasa and the lakeside city of Kisumu, both opposition bastions.

                  “They need to reject the bill, not edit it,” Sarah Njoroge, 21, told AFP.

 “It appears that they think we are vocal on social media and will get tired.”

                  The authorities have blocked several roads near parliament in Nairobi and deployed a heavy police presence, after lawmakers began debating the bill on Wednesday.

                  Protesters in Nairobi said they would march to parliament, which must pass the final version of the bill before June 30.

                  A parliament source told AFP that a vote on the proposals was expected on June 27.

                  The taxes were projected to raise 346.7 billion shillings ($2.7 billion), equivalent to 1.9 percent of GDP, and reduce the budget deficit from 5.7 percent to 3.3 percent of GDP.