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Kenya: President Ruto Agrees to Have ‘Conversation’ with Protesters Over Tax Hikes

Although a blow to him, President Ruto has commended the young people for using a peaceful means to voice their concerns about his administration.

After almost a week of protests by young people in Kenya over tax hikes, President William Ruto has agreed to have a “conversation” with the protesters.

New reports say the protest which started on social media and quickly gained offline support from young Kenyans, particularly from Gen Zers, may have caught Ruto’s government off-guard.  The protesters said his administration has gone back on its pledge to reduce taxes and lower the cost of living for Kenyans.

Although a blow to him, President Ruto has rather commended the young people for using a peaceful means to voice their concerns about his administration.

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“I am very proud of our young people… they have stepped forward peaceful[ly] and I want to tell them we are going to engage them,” President Ruto said on Sunday, June 23, during a church service in the Rift Valley.

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Kenya: President Ruto Agrees to a ‘Conversation’ with Protestors Over Tax Hikes
Young Kenyans protesting price hikes in Kenya

This would be his first public comment since the protests began, extending an invitation to the young people to dialogue in pursuit of a better country.

“We are going to have a conversation so that together we can build a greater nation,” he added although local media reports say the protesters are demanding he extends that invitation publicly.

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Why is Ruto on the hot seat now?

President Ruto assumed office at a time when Kenya was beset with crises including rising food and fuel prices, high unemployment rates and a worrying debt burden.

However, since being sworn into office as Kenya’s fifth president, he has been criticized for bad economic policies even though he had campaigned on the promise to put Kenya’s economy back on track by tackling corruption and ineptitude.

But experts say the economy has not improved under his watch. In an article reviewing his first year in office, Westen K Shilaho, a research fellow at the University of Johannesburg, argued that the living conditions in Kenya have worsened under Ruto.

In January this year, the government asked Kenyans to be patient with President Ruto as he was making “every effort” to fix the economy. Despite all the measures he has put in place, Kenya’s economy is still struggling. Days ago, the government said it plans to borrow Sh263 billion from the domestic market to support the country’s budget for the fiscal year running from June 2024 to July 2025.

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