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Nairobi in Turmoil: Protests, Tear Gas, and a Nation Divided Over Rising Costs

In Nairobi, 53 students found themselves in a medical emergency after law enforcement officials lobbed tear gas into their classroom amidst Wednesday's protests. Dr. Aron Shikuku, a medical professional at the Eagle Nursing Home hospital, mentioned that they had experienced issues with respiration and shock and the students were subsequently discharged after receiving necessary treatment.

Countrywide demonstrations, organized by the opposition due to the escalating cost of living, took a lethal turn. Official reports indicate that the protests claimed six lives.

Nonetheless, human rights organizations dispute this figure, suggesting the death toll was double the official count, with numerous others sustaining injuries.

According to reports, the protest's lethal aftermath included the death of two individuals following a fire set at a police station, while another lost their life in a police van attack on the fringes of the city on Nairobi Expressway.

Despite a ban, public frustration over the inflationary pressures and a newly proposed financial bill incited people to protest. The contentious bill includes a doubling of fuel taxes and a new 1.5% charge on all employees to fund housing initiatives. The government insists these tax hikes are necessary to address debt and foster youth employment, but the courts have temporarily halted the law due to constitutional queries.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who lost the recent election to Mr. Ruto, has urged the government to reconsider these tax increases. Last month, he advocated for civil disobedience, branding supporters of the financial bill as "traitors". Odinga, also the leader of the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition Party, cancelled a planned rally for Wednesday to prevent further conflict.

On Tuesday, the head of police, Japhet Koome, declared that the authorities would utilize "all lawful means" to curb the protests, according to the AFP news agency. This statement follows the fatalities reported from the previous Friday's anti-government protests, where law enforcement faced accusations of using disproportionate force by human rights organizations.

Public opinion in Kenya is split over the protests. Some, like William Musembi in a Reuters interview, believe the cost of living has become untenable and support the protests as a form of self-defense against tax impositions. On the other hand, individuals like supermarket manager James Kagimi Wanjema, also speaking to Reuters, lament the havoc and looting: "A crowd of roughly 400 to 500 people broke through the already bolted doors. They managed to rob the cash registers, taking cash and goods. The situation was rather chaotic," he remarked.


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