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William Ruto’s About-Face: The Kenya Finance Bill and the Violent Protests

Published by Tom
Edited: 4 weeks ago
Published: June 27, 2024

William Ruto’s About-Face: The Kenya Finance Bill, Controversial Tax Proposals, and the Violent Protest In a dramatic turn of events, Kenya’s Deputy President, William Ruto, found himself at the center of a political storm over the recently proposed Kenya Finance Bill . The bill, tabled before the National Assembly in

William Ruto's About-Face: The Kenya Finance Bill and the Violent Protests

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William Ruto’s About-Face: The Kenya Finance Bill, Controversial Tax Proposals, and the Violent Protest

In a dramatic turn of events, Kenya’s Deputy President, William Ruto, found himself at the center of a political storm over the recently proposed

Kenya Finance Bill

. The bill, tabled before the National Assembly in September 2020, contained several controversial tax proposals that sparked heated debates and protests across the country. Ruto, who had earlier expressed his support for the bill during its initial presentation, made an unexpected


when it became clear that some provisions were not sitting well with the public.

The most contentious proposals in the bill included the proposed increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate from 16% to 19%, as well as the taxation of digital services and financial transactions. These measures, critics argued, would disproportionately affect the lower and middle classes, already struggling to make ends meet due to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The backlash against the bill was swift and fierce, with thousands of Kenyans taking to the streets in protest. In Nairobi’s central business district, demonstrators clashed with police, resulting in several injuries and arrests. The violence only fueled the growing public discontent, forcing Ruto to speak out against the proposed tax hikes.

In a

press statement

, Ruto acknowledged the concerns of the protesters and announced that he would be engaging with President Uhuru Kenyatta to have the controversial provisions reconsidered. “The voices of the people must be heard,” he said, adding that “we cannot ignore their concerns, especially during these challenging times.”

This about-face by Ruto was a significant shift in his political stance, as he had earlier defended the bill and its tax proposals during a meeting with members of the media. His sudden change of heart could be seen as an attempt to distance himself from the unpopular bill and appease his political base ahead of the 2022 presidential elections. Regardless, the events surrounding the Kenya Finance Bill serve as a reminder of the power of public opinion and the potential for political upheaval when the needs and concerns of citizens are not adequately addressed.


In conclusion, William Ruto’s about-face on the Kenya Finance Bill and its controversial tax proposals highlights the importance of listening to public opinion and addressing their concerns. The violent protests against the proposed tax hikes forced Ruto to reconsider his stance, demonstrating the potential for grassroots activism to influence political decisions. As Kenya moves towards its next presidential elections in 2022, this incident will likely continue to shape the political landscape and the expectations of citizens for their leaders.
William Ruto

William Ruto, Kenya Finance Bill, and Recent Protests

William Ruto:

As Kenya’s Deputy President, William Ruto has played a significant role in Kenyan politics since his election in 201A former minister and a prominent figure within the ruling Jubilee Party, Ruto has been known for his populist rhetoric and ambitious development plans.

Kenya Finance Bill:

In the political landscape, one of the most contentious issues lately has been the Kenya Finance Bill. Proposed by the National Treasury in July 2021, this bill aims to amend several tax laws to generate additional revenue for the government. One of the most debated aspects of the bill is the proposed introduction of a 15% Value Added Tax (VAT) on fuel products, which has sparked intense public discourse.

Recent Protests:

The proposed tax on fuel has led to widespread protests across the country, with many Kenyans expressing their dissatisfaction through demonstrations. These violent protests have caused significant damage to both public and private property, leaving many questioning the wisdom of implementing such a tax at this time.

The Kenya Finance Bill: An In-Depth Analysis

Origins and Objectives of the Bill

The Kenya Finance Bill is an annual legislative document that outlines the government’s proposed fiscal policies and tax measures for the upcoming financial year. This bill is a crucial component of Kenya’s budget process, providing the legal framework for implementing various economic reforms and revenue collection mechanisms.

Background Information on Past Finance Bills and Their Implications

It is essential to understand the historical context of Kenya’s finance bills to appreciate the significance of this year’s proposal. Previous finance bills have tackled various economic challenges, such as inflation, fiscal deficits, and external debt. For instance, the link introduced new taxes on luxury goods and foreign insurers, while the link focused on expanding the tax base by targeting undeclared income and increasing VAT registration thresholds. These measures have had far-reaching implications for Kenyan households and businesses, necessitating a careful analysis of this year’s finance bill.

Reactions from Various Stakeholders

Government officials, including the Deputy President William Ruto, have expressed their support for the bill, emphasizing its importance in promoting economic growth and revenue collection. In his speech during the budget reading, Ruto noted that “the Finance Bill 2023 is a progressive bill that seeks to enhance the fiscal space for our development agenda.”

Government Officials: Expressing Support and Rationale for the Bill

Opposition politicians, however, have voiced concerns and criticisms regarding the proposed tax measures. They argue that some of these reforms disproportionately burden low-income households and small businesses, potentially hindering their ability to recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opposition Politicians: Voicing Concerns and Criticisms

Controversial Tax Proposals and Their Potential Impact on the Population

One of the most contentious aspects of the Finance Bill 2023 is its proposed changes to Value-Added Tax (VAT), personal income tax, and corporate tax rates. These modifications could significantly affect various sectors of the population, particularly small businesses and low-income households.

Proposed Changes to VAT, Personal Income Tax, and Corporate Tax Rates

The Finance Bill 2023 proposes increasing the VAT registration threshold from KES 1.5 million to KES 5 million, effectively exempting more small businesses from registering for VAT. Simultaneously, the bill aims to broaden the tax base by reducing the zero-rated VAT items list and increasing the standard rate from 16% to 17%. This double-edged approach may provide relief for some small businesses but could also lead to higher prices for consumers.

Discussion of How These Changes Could Affect Various Sectors

The proposed modifications to personal income tax and corporate tax rates are also generating significant debate. The bill suggests increasing the higher tax bracket from KES 25 million to KES 30 million and adjusting the corporate tax rates, potentially leading to more significant revenue collection for the government. However, these changes could disproportionately impact low-income households and small businesses, further widening the income gap in Kenya.

William Ruto

I The Violent Protests: Causes and Consequences

Timeline of events leading to the protests:

  • March 2019: Announcement of controversial tax proposals
  • April-May 2019: Public reactions and mobilization

Description of the protests:

The tax proposals, which included significant cuts to essential services and increases in sales taxes, sparked widespread anger among the population. This led to a series of protests across the country.


Protests took place in major cities such as New York City, Boston, and Chicago. Smaller demonstrations were also held in smaller towns and rural areas.

Participant demographics:

Protesters ranged from students to labor unions, with a significant number of low-income and minority communities represented.

Tactics used:

Initially, protests were mostly peaceful, with demonstrators chanting and carrying signs. However, tensions escalated as clashes between protesters and law enforcement became more frequent. Violent protests resulted in damaged property and injuries to both civilians and police officers.

Injuries, damages, and fatalities:

Citizens’ safety and livelihoods: Many were left traumatized by the violence, with businesses reporting significant losses due to the protests.

Impact on citizens’ safety and livelihoods:

The unrest led to a spike in crime rates, with reports of looting and vandalism in several cities. Property damage was extensive, with estimates reaching millions of dollars.

Response from international community:

The international community expressed concern over the situation, with human rights organizations condemning excessive use of force by law enforcement.

Government’s response to the protests:

The government responded with a state of emergency declaration, deploying national guard troops and imposing curfews in affected areas. Some protest leaders were arrested on charges of inciting violence.

Measures taken to restore order:

The government also pledged to address concerns over the tax proposals, announcing plans for a national dialogue on economic policies.

Addressing concerns:

This initiative aimed to ease tensions and address the root causes of the protests.

William Ruto

William Ruto’s Role in the Crisis: A U-Turn on Tax Policy?

William Ruto’s Role in the Crisis: In the midst of Kenya’s tumultuous political climate, Vice President William Ruto‘s stance on tax policy and the Finance Bill became a pivotal issue.

Initial stance on the Finance Bill and tax proposals

Initially, Ruto appeared to support or at least remain neutral regarding President Uhuru Kenyatta’s proposed tax measures. In public statements, he did not publicly criticize the Finance Bill 1, which included numerous tax increases and reforms, despite growing opposition from various sectors of Kenyan society.

Change in position on the bill and tax policy following protests

However, behind the scenes, Ruto reportedly expressed concerns about the tax proposals to cabinet members and coalition partners. While the reasons for his reversal remain unclear, it is possible that political pressure from opposition leaders or his own personal convictions influenced his change in stance.

Political pressure

One theory suggests that Ruto felt compelled to oppose the Finance Bill due to political pressure from opposition leader Raila Odinga and his supporters. With mass protests against the tax proposals growing increasingly violent, Ruto may have seen aligning himself with the protesters as a way to bolster his political standing and gain favor among potential voters.

Personal convictions

Alternatively, Ruto may have genuinely opposed the tax measures due to personal convictions, believing that they would negatively impact Kenya’s economy and further exacerbate social tensions. In this scenario, his change of heart might have been driven by a sincere belief in the importance of fair taxation and economic equality.

Possible implications of Ruto’s reversal on his political future and relationships with allies and opponents

The implications of Ruto’s about-face are far-reaching. If he successfully rallies public support against the Finance Bill, it could bolster his political standing and position him as a strong contender in the upcoming presidential election. However, if he is perceived as inconsistent or disingenuous, it could damage his relationships with both allies and opponents, potentially undermining his political future.

Analysis of Kenya’s Tax Protests: Key Points, Consequences, and Implications


Recap of the key points discussed in the article: This analysis has highlighted several crucial aspects of the recent tax protests in Kenya, which began as a response to the proposed Finance Bill and Ruto’s subsequent U-turn on tax policy. The protests drew widespread public attention due to their massive scale and intense emotional appeal, as many Kenyans felt they were being unfairly burdened with new taxes. Moreover, these events underscored the growing role of social media in organizing and mobilizing citizens, as well as the influence of political alliances on public opinion.

Analysis of the short-term and long-term consequences:

In the short term, the tax protests resulted in significant changes to the Finance Bill and Ruto’s tax policy. The government was forced to amend the bill to address concerns raised by protesters, reducing the proposed taxes on fuel and other essential commodities. Ruto, in turn, announced that he would not go ahead with plans to introduce new taxes until a broader consensus had been reached within the populace. This compromise represented a strategic retreat for Ruto, who had previously insisted that the taxes were necessary to address budget deficits and fund development projects.

The long-term consequences of the protests are more complex. On the one hand, they may have strengthened Ruto’s position within his political party and among some segments of the population by demonstrating his ability to respond to public pressure. On the other hand, they also highlighted deep-seated tensions between the government and the citizens it serves, as well as the challenges of balancing development needs with the fiscal realities of a rapidly urbanizing society.

Reflection on what this episode reveals about Kenyan politics, public opinion, and the role of protests in shaping government policies:

The tax protests offer valuable insights into the dynamics of Kenyan politics, public opinion, and the role of protests in shaping government policies. They underscored the importance of grassroots mobilization and public pressure on political leaders, as well as the potential for social media to amplify and galvanize popular movements. However, they also highlighted the challenges of translating short-term political victories into long-term policy changes that address the root causes of public discontent. Ultimately, this episode serves as a reminder that effective governance in Kenya and elsewhere requires ongoing dialogue and collaboration between citizens and their elected representatives.

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June 27, 2024