AFRICA/KENYA - New protests announced while Bishops call for the repeal of the finance law

Monday, 24 July 2023 economy   bishops   politics  

Nairobi (Agenzia Fides) - New protests announced by the opposition in Kenya against the high cost of living and the government's economic policy, after those of recent days violently repressed in blood (see Fides, 20/7/2023). The Finance Act, which introduces new taxes, is in particular inflaming spirits. In a statement read out by Msgr. Anthony Muheria, Archbishop of Nyeri, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) asked President William Ruto to repeal it.
"The high cost of living has created a burden on individuals and families, making it difficult for them to meet their basic needs and maintain a decent standard of living", the Archbishop of Nyeri said, citing in particular the high unemployment and the financial hardships that affect education and healthcare access. "In this context, the recent finance law places an unsustainable burden on citizens who are already deeply tried, especially those who live on low incomes. We therefore call on the President to repeal the finance law and initiate a process to achieve the same goals (of the finance law) in the context of the current crisis", added Archbishop Muheria, hinting at an invitation for dialogue with the opposition. In their message, in fact, the Bishops invite President William Ruto and the leader of the opposition to dialogue: "We demand that the failed bipartisan talks should be resumed in a different context that brings on board the religious leaders and some other eminent persons and bodies. We believe that there is no problem, however difficult, that cannot be solved through dialogue. We must, at all costs, avoid the loss of lives. No further blood should be shed".
In July alone, at least 27 people were killed in clashes between police and demonstrators.
Kenya's difficult economic condition stems from its high external debt, aggravated by the weakening of the local currency and turbulence in international markets. Annual interest payments alone exceeded USD 5 billion. The risk of the country filing for bankruptcy is a real possibility according to financial experts. In an attempt to reduce state expenditure, President Ruto has abolished a number of subsidies to the detriment of the weaker classes. The clash between Ruto and Odinga, with the latter who continues to claim that he won the elections and was the victim of an electoral fraud further aggravates the economic crisis. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 24/7/2023)