Kenya is in a state of shock following unprecedented scenes that left parts of Parliament ablaze as protests over a finance bill recommending tax hikes turned deadly, prompting President William Ruto’s government to deploy the military.

The mainly youth-led rallies began largely peacefully last week, with thousands of demonstrators marching in the capital, Nairobi, and across the country against the tax increases.

Lawmakers voted to pass the contentious finance bill amid rising unrest over the cost-of-living crisis in the country.

Tensions flared on Tuesday as police officers fired live rounds on crowds who later breached the Parliament building in Nairobi, with rights groups, including the Kenya Medical Association, saying five people were killed in the violence and more than 30 injured.

Hours later, Defence Minister Aden Bare Duale announced that the government had deployed the army to support the police in tackling “the security emergency” in the country.

In a late-night press briefing, Ruto warned that his government would take a tough line against “violence and anarchy”, likening some of the demonstrators to “criminals”.

The government has been taken by surprise by the intensity of opposition to its tax proposals, which culminated in the shocking scenes at Parliament that played out live on TV.

Broadcast images showed crowds breaking through the barricades, ransacking the Parliament building, with burned furniture and smashed windows.

As police fired at the angry crowds, leaving several bodies strewn on the ground, protest organisers urged people to walk home together and “stay safe”.

Other rallies in various Kenyan cities had been largely peaceful earlier in the day.

Internet services crashed, with global web monitor NetBlocks reporting that Kenya had suffered a “major disruption” before access returned overnight.

Nairobi was bracing for more protests on Wednesday.

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Aljazera

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