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Concerns over missing protesters as Kenya erupts in tax hike demonstrations

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Concerns are mounting in Kenya as reports emerge of protesters going missing amid nationwide demonstrations against proposed tax increases in the Finance Bill 2024.

The protests, which have spread across the country, are part of a movement dubbed the “7 Days of Rage,” calling for a “total shutdown” of Kenya on Tuesday. They say they plan to “occupy” parliament in Kenya’s capital Nairobi.

The protest movement has gained significant traction through social media, where organizers have called on all Kenyans to participate in the nationwide strike.

“Gen Z are granting all hardworking Kenyans a day off,” read a widely circulated poster.

The country’s interior minister has warned that demonstrations must end by sunset or 6.30 p.m local time, whichever is earlier.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindami has addressed the media in Nairobi, urging protesters to remain peaceful and warning against the destruction of property.

“Protesters must not obstruct, block, vandalize, or otherwise destroy any private or public property,” Kindami said at a media conference in Nairobi.

Kindami added that the police would guide demonstrators and restrict access to areas protected under the law for critical infrastructure.

Kindami did not respond to concerns about a few prominent social media users who have been reported missing in recent days.

Recent footage showing a young man being forcibly taken into an SUV has heightened fears and drawn widespread condemnation.

The Law Society of Kenya’s President, Faith Odhiambo, described the incident as an abduction and accused intelligence officers of misconduct.

“Evidently, this was not an arrest as the police did not identify themselves or engage in any conversation prior to the arrest to inform him of his rights,” wrote the president of Law Society of Kenya Faith Odhiambo in a statement. “These criminals pretending to exercise police authority must be stopped.”

The epicenter of the protests is expected to be in Nairobi.

Opposition MP Babu Owino, in a video posted on X, invited protesters to the National Assembly.

“I will personally open the gate for you so you can come in and have tea,” he said. Despite this, the government has warned against attempts to enter any government buildings during the demonstrations.

Human rights groups and associations of content creators have expressed fears of potential internet and media blackouts, which could further escalate tensions.

In a joint statement, 27 organizations warned that such measures would endanger lives and infringe on citizens’ rights to organize, demonstrate, and participate in policymaking.

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