World churches body head alarmed at reports of violent response to Kenyan protests

(Photo: REUTERS / Thomas Mukoya)A riot policeman stands guard outside the main gate of the National Assembly in Kenya's capital Nairobi, December 18, 2014. Kenya's parliament approved new anti-terrorism laws in the face of vocal protests by some opposition lawmakers who said the measures threatened civil liberties and free speech, legislators said

World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Jerry Pillay has expressed alarm at reports and images indicating a "disproportionately violent response" by Kenyan police and security personnel to widespread popular protests about proposed tax increases.

"In particular, reports of the use of live ammunition against protestors resulting in some deaths outside the parliament building in Nairobi are deeply disturbing," said Pillay in a June 26 statement.

"We call for restraint on all sides – for protestors to exercise their right to protest non-violently, and for security forces to respond proportionally with non-lethal means."

Pillay said: "We urge dialogue and public debate to address the issues which have provoked nationwide protests in recent days, and appeal for respect for democratic processes, human rights, and the rule of law by all concerned."

On June 25, part of Kenya's parliament building was set on fire as thousands of protesters against a new finance bill entered and legislators fled.

The protestors finally won the day forcing the government to shelve $2.7 billion in tax hikes.

Young Kenyan activists are setting their sights higher, taking aim at ingrained corruption and misgovernance, however, Reuters news agency reported,.

Protesters say the finance bill that President William Ruto abandoned on Wednesday was only a symptom of the problems plaguing a country where many young people have few job prospects despite strong economic growth.

Protesters had demanded that legislators vote against a bill imposing new taxes.

Police reportedly fired live ammunition and threw tear gas canisters at protesters.

Clashes also spread to other cities.

There were cheers at the Roman Catholic Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi after a youth walked to the front of the Church in the middle of service to protest against the Finance Bill, 2024.

In a video seen by the Star publication, an unidentified youth carrying the Kenyan flag stood and started chanting "Reject Finance Bill."

A man who was leading the service at the time then asked the congregation to applaud the youth for boldly expressing himself.

Soon after, the church joined the chanting and applauding him before he walked back to his seat.

A man who was leading the service at the time then asked the congregation to applaud the youth for boldly expressing himself.

"Let's give him a round of applause for expressing himself."

Elsewhere, at the Nairobi Chapel, the church leadership thanked and prayed for Kenyan youths for their courage in holding the leadership of the country accountable.

He said the youth have ushered the country into a new chapter.

"Thank you for speaking out, your fearless stand against injustice. Thank you for holding the leaders and institutions in this country to account and zero tolerance to corruption. Thank you for making history and ushering us into a new chapter as a country.

"The first thing we want to say is thank you for your courage. The second thing we want to say is we are proud of you because the protests that happened this week were orderly," a preacher is seen saying in a video.

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