Western diplomats finally speak on Kenya protests, but avoid tax issue

US Embassy

US embassy in Nairobi.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

Western diplomats in Nairobi have finally spoken on the mounting protests by youth opposed to the contents of the Finance Bill for this year, raising concerns about police brutality — but steered clear on commenting on the taxation issue at the root of demos. 

On Tuesday, ambassadors from the US, the High Commissioners of UK, and Canada, as well as Germany, Finland, Ireland and Norway — all called for restraint on the side of the police and peaceful picketing by the public. Estonia, Netherlands Sweden, Romania and Belgium also appended their signature on a statement that also called for dialogue.

“We call for restraint on all sides, and encourage all leaders to find peaceful solutions through constructive dialogue,” they said.

The statement came after rights activists condemned the use of live bullets on protesters, which led to at least seven deaths in Monday’s siege on Parliament. 

But theirs came after critics questioned the week-long silence as protests grew across the country and Parliament forced through the passage of the Finance Bill. The ambassadors avoided discussing the specific issue of whether to raise or make the Bill into law.

Law Society of Kenya President faith Odhiambo had accused them of refusing to condemn something they had often spoke of: police brutality.

“I have a message to the international community who for a second week running, remain quiet and tight lipped. Are you proud of what is happening in Kenya? Is this your game plan for Kenya as a non-NATO ally?” she spoke, indirectly accusing the US of looking the other way as it cemented ties with Nairobi. 

On Monday, President Joe Biden formally listed Kenya among Major non-NATO allies, joining other African countries like Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. It also came as Kenya deployed the first batch of police troops to Haiti, part of a Multinational Security Support mission financed by Washington. They touched down in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday afternoon.