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Kenya’s Ruto dismisses almost entire cabinet after nationwide protests | Protests News

The president’s decision comes after weeks of protests forced him to abandon proposed tax hikes.

Kenyan President William Ruto has announced the dismissal of almost his entire cabinet and consultations to form a “broad-based government” following widespread anti-government protests.

Ruto said his decision would apply to all ministers, including the attorney general, but it excluded Foreign Minister Musalia Mudavadi.

“I will immediately engage in extensive consultations across different sectors and political formations and other Kenyans, both in public and private, with the aim of setting up a broad-based government,” Ruto said in a televised address to the nation on Thursday, adding that he would announce additional measures later.

The East African nation was left reeling after peaceful rallies last month to protest planned steep tax increases flared into deadly violence, with police firing at crowds who stormed the Parliament of Kenya, leaving it partly ablaze.

Led largely by young people, the protests plunged Ruto’s administration into the most serious crisis of his presidency, forcing him to abandon the tax hikes and scramble to contain the damage.

Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from Nairobi, said the youth’s dissatisfaction with Ruto began before the controversial tax hikes were proposed.

“Ruto was elected two years ago”, Webb said, on a “promise to emancipate Kenya’s working poor… he won that election by a whisker and with a low turnout”.

Since then, economic conditions in Kenya have worsened, leading to growing criticism, particularly on social media, of the government, which has also been accused of “flagrant displays of wealth…alleged incompetence” and racked by scandals, Webb said.

Protesters scatter as Kenya police spray a water canon at them during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, on June. 25, 2024 [File: Brian Inganga/AP Photo]

Protests against the tax hike began in June and widened into a broader campaign against Ruto and his government, with some demonstrations descending into violence that has left dozens dead.

Last week, the Kenyan leader announced sharp cuts to government spending in response to growing anger over his cabinet’s travel and renovation budgets while ordinary citizens struggled to cope with a cost-of-living crisis.

In addition to scrapping the annual finance bill, including the tax hikes, Ruto has also sought to engage with some protesters, hosting an event on social media platform X with young Kenyans last week.

But this has failed to appease some demonstrators, who have continued to call for him to step down, using the hashtag #RutoMustGo and staging smaller rallies across Kenyan cities.

Kenya’s public debt amounts to 10 trillion shillings ($78bn), around 70 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

The government’s decision to borrow more will result in the fiscal deficit rising from 3.3 percent to 4.6 percent, according to Ruto.

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