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African Union Raises Concern Over Kenya’s Finance Bill, Issues 5 Demands.

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The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has called out the Kenyan government over the new tax proposals in the Finance Bill 2024.

In a statement on Wednesday, June 19, the Commission noted that the new tax proposals created a serious concern for Kenyans, which led to widespread protests.

“The African Commission has learned from reports reaching it that the move by the Government of Kenya for the adoption of a new tax bill has created serious concern for members of the Kenyan public, precipitating widespread protests.

“The African Commission is concerned that the protests on June 18 have led to the arrest of over 300 individuals and underscores that peaceful protest is protected under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter),” ACHPR stated.

According to the Commission, Kenyans were to be consulted before the new tax proposals were put into place as they affected them directly.ACHPR further raised concern over a provision within the bill that seeks to remove section 51 of the Data Protection Act and allow the Kenya Revenue Authority to have unfettered access to individuals’ financial records without prior notice.

The Commission disclosed that such a move was dangerous and undermined the principles of privacy.”Such measures set a dangerous precedent for government overreach and undermine the fundamental principles of privacy and civil liberties critical for ensuring protection of civil and political and socio-economic rights under the African Charter,” the Commission remarked.

ACHPR asked the Kenyan government to engage with all stakeholders, including civil society organizations, community leaders, and the affected populations, to address the concerns.

It further urged the government to explore alternative measures to alleviate the financial burden on ordinary citizens.

“These measures could include targeted subsidies for essential goods, tax relief for low-income earners, and the implementation of robust social protection programs designed to support the most vulnerable segments of society,” ACHPR stated.

The Commission also called on the Kenyan authorities to respect the right to peaceful protest and ensure that security forces exercise restraint and uphold the highest standards of human rights when managing public demonstrations.

Additionally, ACHPR called for the immediate release of individuals arrested for participating in peaceful protests, with utmost respect for due process of the law under Article 7 of the African Charter.

The Commission also asked the Kenyan government to immediately reconsider and amend the provision that allows the Kenya Revenue Authority to access individuals’ financial records without a warrant or prior notice.

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