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#OccupyParliament Protests Against Kenya’s Finance Bill 2024: The Sovereign Power of the People

The recent protests against Kenya’s Finance Bill 2024 are a profound manifestation of public dissent against economic policies perceived as unjust and burdensome.

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#OccupyParliament Protests Against Kenya’s Finance Bill

The recent protests against Kenya’s Finance Bill 2024 are a profound manifestation of public dissent against economic policies perceived as unjust and burdensome. These protests have escalated, culminating in a dramatic series of events on June 25, 2024, which included the storming of parliament by protestors, violence allegedly incited by paid infiltrators to justify state crackdown on the nonviolent demonstrators, and widespread destruction across the country. This opinion piece aims to contextualize and justify these protests, highlighting the underlying economic, social, and democratic issues that have fueled public outrage.

The Economic Burden on Ordinary Citizens

The Finance Bill 2024 proposes a series of tax hikes that would exacerbate the already high cost of living for many Kenyans. The original bill included a 16% VAT on bread, taxes on the transportation of sugar, financial services, mobile money transactions, and foreign exchange transactions. Despite some amendments, such as the removal of the VAT on bread, the overall tax burden remains significant. These measures disproportionately impact basic commodities and essential services, further straining household budgets already stretched thin by previous tax increases on petroleum products and housing.

Kenya’s President William Ruto, who appears tone deaf, has argued that these taxes are necessary to boost revenue and reduce reliance on external borrowing. However, this perspective overlooks the immediate economic hardships these taxes impose on the population. The protests are justified as they represent a collective outcry against policies that continue to threaten economic stability and social welfare, demanding more equitable fiscal measures. Every new fiscal year, the Kenyan government attempts to increase tax revenue without due consideration of the effect these taxes have on ordinary people. There is often little to no meaningful public participation in making decisions on taxation and financial policies in general. Parliament, that is meant to safeguard the peoples’ interests, seems captured by the executive and just going through the motions.


Democratic Expression and Civil Rights

The right to peaceful protest is enshrined in Kenya’s Constitution. However, the government’s heavy-handed response to the protests, including the use of tear gas and mass arrests, signifies a troubling trend towards authoritarianism. On June 25, over 200 demonstrators were arrested, including journalists and rights observers, highlighting a severe crackdown on civil liberties. Medical professionals offering first aid to injured protesters at the Holy Family Basilica were also shot at by the police. 

The storming of parliament by protesters reflects deep frustration with the perceived lack of responsiveness from lawmakers for the last six decades of the existence of the “independent” Kenyan state. The violent clashes that ensued, reportedly involving infiltrators paid to incite violence and discredit peaceful protesters, further complicated the situation, resulting in several deaths from live fire by police. Such tactics not only undermine the legitimacy of the protests but also distract from the core issues at hand. The protests are a legitimate means of safeguarding democracy and ensuring that citizens’ voices, especially those of Generation Z, are heard and respected.

Social Justice and Equity

The Finance Bill’s provisions, particularly the new taxes, would disproportionately affect the most vulnerable segments of society. Despite some amendments, the overall approach still reflects a priority on revenue generation over social equity. Opposition, business, faith, and civil society groups have highlighted how these measures would deepen poverty and widen the gap between the rich and the poor. Opposition leader Raila Odinga and other figures have argued that the bill would be a “huge millstone” around the necks of millions of poor Kenyans.


The destruction of homes and offices belonging to leaders and politicians across the country during the protests underscores the depth of public anger. These acts of violence, while condemnable, highlight the desperation and frustration of a populace feeling increasingly disenfranchised and unheard by their leaders, many of whom live in showy opulence while expressing open contempt for those who elected them. The protests are justified as a fight for social justice and economic equity, advocating for policies that protect rather than undermine the livelihoods of the less affluent.

Accountability and Transparency

The ongoing protests also underscore the need for greater accountability and transparency in government fiscal policies. Many Kenyans are sceptical of the government’s intentions and efficacy, given pervasive issues of corruption and mismanagement of public funds. The Finance Bill’s passage, despite widespread opposition, indicates a significant disconnect between the government’s actions and the will of the people. The government has continued borrowing from the IMF and the World Bank, with little to show in terms of how those funds will impact ordinary Kenyans positively. Worst of all, the government is borrowing to pay off previous loans, in effect kicking the can down the road, many of which never benefited ordinary Kenyans. There are next to no policies in the bill to grow the economy, increase productivity, and create jobs for the millions of unemployed or underemployed young Kenyans.

Public protests are a crucial mechanism for holding the government accountable, ensuring that policy decisions are made transparently and reflect the people’s interests. The protests serve as a reminder to lawmakers that their primary duty is to their constituents, the sovereign according to the Constitution of Kenya, not to comprador political or economic elites, or the Bretton Woods institutions.



The protests against Kenya’s Finance Bill 2024 are a justified response to an economic policy perceived as unjust, undemocratic, and inequitable. By taking to the streets, Kenyans are exercising their democratic rights, demanding fair treatment, and advocating for policies that protect their economic well-being. These protests highlight the crucial role civil society has to play in holding the government accountable and ensuring that the voices of ordinary citizens are heard in the policymaking process. As such, they represent not just opposition to specific tax measures, but a broader struggle for justice, equity, and democracy in Kenya. The recent events, including the storming of parliament and the violence that followed, underscore the urgent need for dialogue and reform to address the root causes of public discontent and restore faith in the democratic governance process.

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