Statements Regarding the Escalation of Violence and Death of Protesters During Demonstrations Against Tax Proposals in Kenya

Statements Regarding the Escalation of Violence and Death of Protesters During Demonstrations Against Tax Proposals in Kenya

World Council of Churches: After anti-tax protests, Kenyan churches urge government to focus more on youth

As Kenyan youth anti-tax hike protests persisted, church leaders were suggesting measures to calm the country, amidst fears of further chaos in the near future.

Even as president William Ruto withdrew the controversial tax bill, known as the Finance Bill 2024, the leaders urged the government to talk to the youth to hear their concerns. This came as the protesters broadened their demands, calling for more financial and political reforms beyond the tax bill law.

 On 27 June, the country’s Protestant churches observed that with youth under 35 years constituting 79 percent of the population, the protests signal the redefining and reshaping of Kenya’s identity, ethos, and future, for the next 50 years.

“We therefore call upon all institutions and leaders to focus more than 80 percent of their efforts and resources on empowering the youth to have dignified livelihoods,” said the Rev. Canon Chris Kinyanjui, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya. “The first step in this process is listening to the youth and creating platforms for them to shape the nation they desire to live in.”

After organizing for days through social media networks such as Tik Tok, Facebook and WhatsApp, the youth had mounted nationwide protests against the bill under the banner of “Seven Days of Rage.” The peak was a total shutdown of the country and storming of parliament on 25 June.

 By 27 June, at least 22 people had died and over 300 were injured in the protests, according to the Kenya Human Rights Commission. Amnesty International reported that the police were filmed shooting live ammunition at peaceful protesters. The groups are also reporting a wave of abduction and disappearances.

 “Churches of Kenya are mourning with deep sadness the deaths of dozens of Kenyans…killed…during demonstrations. We pass our condolences to the families that have been bereaved by these unnecessary deaths, and are praying for quick recovery for all those injured,” said Kinyanjui.

He announced that the council would establish centres of excellence for youth skills, launch youth-focused programmes, and organize multi-sectoral economic forums, among other initiatives.

At the same time, the Interreligious Council of Kenya urged the government to engage Kenyans rather than attempting to scare them. The grouping said the constitutionally guaranteed protests had become an eyesore since the police were using excessive force and leading to death of citizens.

“We stand in solidarity with the youth who have engaged in peaceful demonstrations and commend them for that,” said Roman Catholic Bishop Wilybard Kitogho Lagho of Malindi, who chairs the council.

The bill drew rage because it had sought to hike taxation on basic commodities including bread, cooking oil, diapers, and sanitary pads, among other items.

Earlier, Ruto had defended the bill as critical for the government, since it would aid in the payment of external debt. By December 2023, Kenya’s external debt stood at approximately $45.5 billion USD.

As he withdrew the bill, Ruto said he reflected in the continuing conversation around the contents of the bill and listened keenly to the citizens who want nothing to do with it. He directed austerity measures to cut government expenses.

“…I concede, and therefore, I will not sign the 2024 Finance Bill, and it shall subsequently be withdrawn,” Ruto told a news conference at State House in Nairobi.

Meanwhile, Christian Aid, the international relief and development agency said external debt had exacerbated Kenya’s anti-tax riots and would require international intervention to resolve.

“Kenyans are worried. In the face of this abhorrent violence, too many have not felt safe on our streets. This disastrous debt burden has led to unsustainable spending cuts. We now see a lack of equipment and medicine in hospitals and reduced welfare for the elderly and vulnerable,” said Janet Ngombalu, Christian Aid’s country director in Kenya in a statement on 26 June.

National Council of Churches of Kenya: Kenya is Changing; Listen to the Kenyans for Direction

The officials elected to NCCK Committees in Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu, Mombasa, Taita Taveta and Tana River counties have held a two-day induction workshop here at Jumuia Conference and Beach Resort, Kanamai. The officials were sensitized on NCCK’s history, constitution, governance structures, policies and programmes.

Further, the officials took time to reflect on the state of the nation, and were challenged by the scripture recorded in Galatians 2: 11

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.

Though Peter was a key pillar of the church, he had to listen when Paul pointed out the ways in which he had faltered. Recognizing the importance of listening to one another, we now share the following message.

1.         A Time for Rebirth

Our nation Kenya is at a time of change. We are at the doorstep of a brand new nation, and it is for us to determine whether it will be prosperous or impoverished. We call upon all Kenyans, and especially the residents of our counties, to be alert to this reality and be ready to play our part, so that we avoid being like the people who make God sad as we read in Jeremiah 8: 7

Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But my people do not know.

It is therefore important for all Kenyans to be involved and to contribute to this journey of transformation, recognizing as the Bible says that we cannot walk together if we have not agreed to do so. We therefore challenge all political, religious and community leaders to keenly listen to the people. This is not a time to justify oneself, show bravado or play mind games. That season is over.

Kenyans have spoken, and through the issues raised in the demonstrations fronted by the youth over the last three weeks, have made their preferences clear. We here highlight the 3 key messages Kenyans wish their government to hear:

  • Stop Punitive Taxation

Over the last three years, the Finance Bills have progressively increased taxation to unmanageable levels. This has increased the sense of exasperation and despair among Kenyans who are already in mental anguish. While we appreciate that the President indicated that he had rejected the Finance Bill 2024, we note that the percentage of individual income that goes to tax is more than 40%. This is too high, and we call upon government to further reduce it so as to promote productivity. When we produce more, we will pay more. But if you tax more, we will pay less.

  • Restructure Government to cut Expenditure

Recognizing that the high appetite for income by the government is unsustainable, we counsel His Excellency President William Ruto to spearhead a major restructuring of the government so as to reduce expenditure. Things cannot remain the same. All unnecessary expenses should be removed so that the country can live within its means. This will especially eradicate the need for the government to continue incurring debts.

  • End Corruption

The biggest curse affecting our nation is the ogre called corruption. Not only are our national resources being wasted, but they are also being stolen by government officials. This must be stopped for Kenya to be reborn. A lot has been said about corruption, and Kenyans now demand for action, not more speeches or promises.

  • No Further Bloodshed

Every Kenyan is guaranteed by the Constitution the right to hold peaceful demonstrations and present memoranda to public officials. We are therefore deeply saddened that the police have unleashed brutality on peaceful demonstrators. Reports indicate that more than 39 Kenyans have been killed in the demonstrations in the last two weeks, while hundreds have been brutally injured. Is this the Kenya we want to live in?

The use of excessive force that includes shooting demonstrators must be stopped. Further, all the demonstrators who were arrested last week should be unconditionally released since they were exercising their constitutional rights.

We in addition call upon the Inspector General to publicly account for all individuals who have been abducted or clandestinely arrested by the security agents. This trend of imposing fear on the people must be ended.

2.         Honoring the Departed Heroes

Saddened by the killing of more than 39 Kenyans by police during the recent demonstrations, we pass our condolences to the bereaved families. We are continuing to pray for all the injured and affected for quick recovery.

On our part, we have mobilized our member churches across the country to mark 7 days of mourning that will culminate in memorial services on Sunday 7th July 2024. We welcome all Kenyans to join us in our churches as we mark Saba Saba by honoring all the heroes and freedom fighters. At the national level, the memorial service will be at All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi, from 2:00 pm.

3.         End the Indignity of Squatting

Appreciably, no citizen in a the reborn nation should suffer the indignity of being a squatter. We call upon the government to speedily complete the adjudication and registration of land in the coastal counties in a just and equitable manner. The suffering of more than 60% of residents in our counties must be ended. Each person should be enabled to hold title deeds for the lands on which they live and farm.

4.         Address Rampant Insecurity

The counties in this region continue to suffer a major challenge of insecurity due to criminal gangs. People have been killed, while tens have been maimed though injuries inflicted with pangas and other crude weapons. For how long will this situation be allowed to continue? We challenge the Inspector General to revamp the security operations and leadership in this region.

5.         Reconstitute the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission

The Kenya we all aspire for is a Kenya that is premised on constitutional democracy to safeguard justice, peace and liberty. We therefore call upon His Excellency President William Ruto and concerned stakeholders to speedily facilitate completion of the process of appointment of the IEBC commissioners. Kenyans must no longer be denied the justice of holding by-elections on account of lack of an electoral management body.


In conclusion, recall the inspiration of God recorded in Isaiah 43: 18 – 19

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

We appeal to all Kenyans to embrace the new nation that Kenya is being shaped into. Let us all join hands to play our role and contribute to making of the new nation.

May God bless the NCCK Coast Region and the entire nation now and always.