Finance Bill Protest: Kenyan authorities will not shutdown internet as police smoke protesters

Ejike Kanife
Kenya’s finance bill protest is a social media powered movement
Finance Bill Protest: Kenyan authorities will not shutdown internet as police smoke protesters

Amid the youth-led finance bill protest against a proposed financial legislation that has rocked Kenya over the past week, authorities in the country have pledged not to shut down the internet in the country. The assurance was given by director general and CEO of Kenya’s Communications Authority (CA) David Mugonyi Communications ahead of fresh polls to decide the matter set for Tuesday.

The youths, mostly members of Generation Z, are protesting against over-taxation and other overbearing demands stipulated in the country’s new Finance Bill currently being considered by the country’s parliament. Of note is a digital tax bill that not only targets digital companies but also individuals earning a living off digital means. 

Various individuals, organisations and critics believe the requirements of the bill will increase the tax burden on individuals.

Using social media, the aggrieved youths mobilized and planned coordinated demonstrations across the country. Through social media the movement, tagged #RejectFinanceBill2024, had gathered momentum with more youths in more parts of the country hitting the streets to demonstrate their ire against a bill targeted against them.

Zimbabwean Government Enforces a Shutdown of Internet Access by Telcos

With social media and the internet propelling the protests, there were fears that the government would resort to shutting down the internet as is typical in African countries. But DG, David Mugonyi said that was never going to happen.

For the avoidance of doubt, the authority has no intention whatsoever to shut down internet traffic or interfere with the quality of connectivity. Such actions would sabotage our fast-growing digital economy as internet connectivity supports thousands of livelihoods across the country,” Mugonyi told reporters.

The DG and CEO further said that disrupting the internet would be a betrayal of the Kenyan Constitution, freedom of expression, and the country’s character. He, however, advised Kenyans to use the internet in a way that respects everyone and adheres to the law.

Kenya’s Finance Bill protest

While Kenya’s Communications Chief might have assured that the government isn’t trying to quell the protests via an internet shutdown, the government appears to be resorting to brute force. According to various reports and live videos, police in the country have fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water canisters to disperse protesters in the capital, Nairobi.

A CNN report showed Auma Obama, a supposed half-sister of former American president, Barack Obama getting gassed along with protesters as she tried to speak to the press.

The police are reportedly engaging in running battles with protesters, chasing them down the street and generally restricting them from the parliamentary area where MPs are set to vote on the adoption of the Finance Bill. As a result, businesses have been shut down, transportation has been disrupted and general economic activities paralysed.

Finance Bill Protest: Kenyan authorities will not shutdown internet as police smoke protesters
Kenyan Finance Bill protests

Kenyan president, William Ruto had previously towed back some controversial parts of the bill, insisting that new taxes are required to reduce tax burden and fund new projects. The young people are, however, not having it and are calling on the members of parliament to reject the bill in its entirety.

And there are indeed some within the government that swing the side of the youths. John Tanui, Principal Secretary of the State Department for Information and Communication Technology and Digital Economy, stated, “Gen Z has highlighted real concerns, which we are committed to hearing in order to better inform government action. This is the most talented and tech-savvy demographic.

It will be interesting to see how the coming days unfold.

See also: Bolt and Uber may hike fares in Kenya amid govt’s 6% significant presence tax


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