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William Ruto’s U-Turn on Kenya Finance Bill: A Response to Deadly Protests

Published by Elley
Edited: 3 weeks ago
Published: June 27, 2024

William Ruto’s U-Turn on Kenya Finance Bill: A Response to Deadly Protests William Ruto, Kenya’s Deputy President, made a surprising U-turn on the contentious Kenya Finance Bill 2019 The bill, which includes proposed tax changes and austerity measures, sparked deadly protests in the capital city of Nairobi and other major

William Ruto's U-Turn on Kenya Finance Bill: A Response to Deadly Protests

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William Ruto’s U-Turn on Kenya Finance Bill: A Response to Deadly Protests

William Ruto, Kenya’s Deputy President, made a surprising U-turn

on the contentious Kenya Finance Bill 2019

The bill, which includes proposed tax changes and austerity measures, sparked deadly protests in the capital city of Nairobi and other major towns in January 2019. The demonstrations left at least six people dead and numerous injuries among civilians and police officers.

Initial Stance: Support for the Bill

Prior to the protests, Ruto had publicly supported the Finance Bill, expressing his belief that it was essential for addressing Kenya’s financial challenges. He urged MPs to pass it without delay, stating, “We must ensure our country’s economic stability and progress by passing the Finance Bill 2019.”

Change of Heart: Suspension of the Bill

However, following the violent protests and public outcry against certain aspects of the bill, Ruto announced a suspension of the legislation. In a press statement, he expressed his condolences for those who had lost their lives and called for dialogue to address the concerns of the citizens. Ruto also stated, “We shall take a fresh look at the Finance Bill 2019 and consult further with all stakeholders to ensure that the interests of Kenyans are protected.”

Public Perception: A Political U-Turn or a True Response?

The sudden change in stance has led to mixed reactions from the public. Some view it as a political U-turn, aimed at quelling the protests and appeasing the electorate before the upcoming 2022 elections. Others believe it to be a genuine response, acknowledging the need for dialogue and addressing the concerns of the citizens in order to prevent further unrest.

The Kenya Finance Bill: A Contentious Proposal Amidst Unrest


The Kenya Finance Bill, a proposed legislation designed to amend the Income Tax Act and Value Added Tax (VAT) Act, has sparked intense debate in Kenya. This bill, which was tabled in Parliament on June 15, 2022, carries significant implications for the economy and citizens of Kenya.

Key Provisions and Potential Impacts

Some of the key provisions in the Finance Bill include an increase in the VAT rate from 16% to 17%, the introduction of a 1.5% digital services tax, and a proposed change to the tax treatment of rental income. These modifications are expected to generate additional revenue for the government, but they may also negatively impact low-income Kenyans and small businesses.

Recent Deadly Protests

The proposed Finance Bill has led to widespread public unrest, with demonstrations erupting across major Kenyan cities. Thousands of citizens took to the streets on June 25, 2022, in response to the bill. The protests were met with a heavy-handed police response, resulting in multiple fatalities and numerous injuries.

Vice President William Ruto’s Announcement

Amidst this tumultuous backdrop, Vice President William Ruto recently announced that the Finance Bill would be revised to address some of the public’s concerns. Details regarding the nature and extent of these revisions have yet to be disclosed, leaving many wondering what the future holds for this contentious proposal. Stay tuned for upcoming sections as we delve deeper into the implications of the Kenya Finance Bill and its ongoing impact on Kenyan citizens.

Background: The Finance Bill and its Controversial Provisions

The Kenya Finance Bill 2022, tabled before the National Assembly in March 2022, has generated heated debates due to its contentious provisions. The following is a detailed explanation of these provisions and their potential impacts on various sectors and socio-economic groups in Kenya.

Controversial Provisions:

Tax Measures on Fuel, Transportation, and Income

The Finance Bill proposes several measures that have sparked controversy. One of the most significant is a proposed increase in fuel taxes by KES 3 per liter for diesel and petrol, and an increase of KES 7.50 per litre for kerosene. These increases have raised concerns about their potential impact on the cost of living, particularly for those in low-income households who rely heavily on fuel for transportation and cooking.

Another contentious provision is the proposed amendment to the Value Added Tax (VAT) Act, which would see VAT applied to digital services, including streaming and downloading digital content. The amendment also proposes an increase in the VAT registration threshold from KES 500,000 to KES 1.5 million, potentially affecting small businesses.

Impact Analysis:

Sectors and Socio-economic Groups

The proposed tax measures are expected to have varying impacts on different sectors and socio-economic groups. For instance, the fuel price increase may lead to higher transportation costs, potentially affecting the cost of goods and services in various industries. The amendment to the VAT Act could result in increased compliance costs for small businesses, which may ultimately be passed on to consumers.

Positive Consequences:

On the positive side, the increased revenue from these provisions could be used to finance development projects and improve public services. The government has also argued that the proposed measures are necessary to address revenue gaps in the budget.

Negative Consequences:

However, critics argue that the tax measures could worsen economic inequality and exacerbate poverty. For instance, low-income households already struggling to afford basic necessities may be disproportionately affected by the fuel price increase.

Previous Reactions:

The proposed provisions have elicited strong reactions from stakeholders, including politicians, civil society organizations, and the general public. Opposition politicians have criticized the measures as regressive and discriminatory against the poor. Civil society organizations have called for a more equitable tax system that addresses income inequality and ensures social protection for vulnerable populations.

The general public has also expressed concern about the potential impact of these measures on their livelihoods and cost of living. In response, some members of civil society have launched campaigns advocating for alternative revenue sources and tax reforms that prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable populations.

William Ruto

I The U-Turn: Vice President Ruto’s Announcement on the Finance Bill

Vice President Ruto‘s recent announcement regarding his stance on the Finance Bill came after a series of mounting pressure from protests and political allies. The growing unrest in Kenya, fueled by high taxes and economic instability, had reached a boiling point, with citizens taking to the streets to demand change.

Description of the growing unrest and demands for change

The unrest in Kenya had been brewing for months, with citizens expressing their dissatisfaction over the government’s handling of the economy. High taxes, combined with rising prices and unemployment, had left many feeling frustrated and disenfranchised. Protests, led by various civil society groups, had become a weekly occurrence in major cities across the country. The government’s response, which included heavy-handed tactics such as tear gas and water cannons, only served to further inflame tensions.

Detailed look at Ruto’s statement on the Finance Bill

In light of this unrest, Vice President Ruto announced that he would no longer support the Finance Bill. In his statement, Ruto explained that he had initially supported the bill due to its provisions for increased funding for infrastructure projects and social welfare programs. However, he acknowledged that the bill’s tax measures had caused undue hardship for ordinary Kenyans. Ruto went on to say that he would work with his colleagues in parliament to find a more equitable solution.

Analysis of Ruto’s motivations and possible political implications

Ruto’s U-turn on the Finance Bill can be seen as an attempt to regain public support in light of the protests and unrest. By distancing himself from the bill, Ruto positioned himself as a champion for the people, aligning himself with their demands for change. Additionally, Ruto’s announcement may be seen as a strategic move in his bid to position himself as a potential presidential candidate in 202By demonstrating his willingness to listen to the concerns of ordinary Kenyans and work towards finding solutions, Ruto may be able to build momentum for his campaign.

William Ruto

Reactions to Vice President Ruto’s U-Turn on the Finance Bill

Vice President Ruto’s sudden about-face on the Finance Bill has sparked diverse reactions from various stakeholders in Kenya.

Response from Political Allies and Opponents

a) Analysis of their positions and potential implications for coalition politics in Kenya:

Ruto’s decision to withdraw his support for the Finance Bill has been met with contrasting reactions from his political allies and opponents. Some of his allies, including Jubilee Party legislators, have criticized him for betraying the coalition government, potentially fueling further divisions within the ruling party. On the other hand, his opponents, such as the opposition leader Raila Odinga, have applauded him for standing up against an unpopular bill. These opposing positions could further complicate coalition politics in Kenya, as the government navigates the ongoing debate surrounding the Finance Bill.

Reactions from civil society organizations and affected communities

b) Assessment of the impact on public trust and support for these groups:

Civil society organizations and affected communities have expressed mixed reactions to Ruto’s u-turn. While some hailed it as a victory for the people, others criticized him for making the announcement too late and questioned his sincerity. This ambiguity could impact public trust in these organizations and their ability to effectively advocate for the interests of the people, particularly in the context of contentious legislation like the Finance Bill.

Potential consequences for the Finance Bill

Chances of the bill being passed in its current form or amended significantly:

Ruto’s withdrawal of support for the Finance Bill raises questions about its future. With key coalition partners no longer backing the bill, its chances of being passed in its current form are uncertain. Some legislators have suggested amending the bill to address concerns raised by critics; however, this could also complicate the process and delay passage.

Implications for Kenya’s economic stability and future growth:

The Finance Bill is a critical piece of legislation that will have significant implications for Kenya’s economic stability and future growth. Ruto’s u-turn, therefore, comes at a crucial time, as the country navigates ongoing economic challenges and seeks to attract foreign investment. The ultimate outcome of this political drama will be closely watched by both domestic and international stakeholders, as they assess the impact on Kenya’s economic prospects.

William Ruto


Recap of the Main Points: This article began by exploring the background of Kenya’s proposed tax law amendments and the controversial VAT bill that sparked widespread protests. We then delved into the U-turn taken by Deputy President William Ruto, initially a vocal supporter of the bill, who later distanced himself from it following public pressure. The reactions from various stakeholders, including opposition politicians, civil society groups, and international organizations, were also examined.

Broad Implications:

The recent tax law controversy in Kenya highlights the significant role of protests in shaping policy decisions and public discourse. Protests have long been a powerful tool for citizens to demand change and hold their elected representatives accountable. However, they can also lead to political instability and economic uncertainty. In the context of Kenya’s fragile economy, any policy that could potentially deter foreign investment or undermine consumer confidence must be approached with caution.

The Influence of Political Ambitions:

Another crucial implication of this tax law controversy is the influence of political ambitions on economic policies and their potential consequences for Kenya’s future development. Ruto’s initial support for the VAT bill, despite opposition from various stakeholders, can be seen as a strategic move aimed at currying favor with President Uhuru Kenyatta and enhancing his own political prospects. However, his subsequent reversal of position may have damaged his credibility and raised questions about his commitment to economic reforms.

Long-Term Consequences:

Furthermore, the tax law controversy underscores the need for a more inclusive and transparent policymaking process in Kenya. The government’s failure to engage civil society groups, businesses, and opposition politicians in the drafting and implementation of economic policies could lead to further instability and uncertainty. The long-term consequences of this tax law controversy for Kenya’s economic development remain to be seen but serve as a stark reminder of the importance of effective communication, collaboration, and compromise in governance.

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June 27, 2024