Thirteen killed and parliament set ablaze in Kenya protests - medics

At least 13 protesters were killed during protests in Kenya, doctors say, and a section of parliament went up in flames as demonstrations against new tax proposals escalated on Tuesday.

An angry crowd broke through police lines to storm parliament in the capital Nairobi before setting parts of it ablaze.

In an address on Tuesday evening, President William Ruto said all means would be deployed to "thwart any attempts by dangerous criminals to undermine the security and stability of our country".

He has deployed the military to quell the protests.

Several groups have accused the security forces of over-reacting by using live ammunition.

Simon Kigondu, president of the Kenya Medical Association, told the AFP news agency that the figure of 13 deaths was "not the final number".

There have also been unverified social media reports of dozens of people being shot dead by security officers overnight, as well as reports of deaths in other areas around the country where there were protests.

Protests against an unpopular finance bill, which includes several tax rises, have been ongoing for days. But they escalated on Tuesday as MPs passed an amended bill.

Protesters broke into parliament, vandalising the interior and setting parts of the complex on fire. The ceremonial mace, symbolising the authority of the legislature, was stolen.

Police then opened fire with live ammunition, according to the Kenya Medical Association.

The BBC's Mercy Juma in Nairobi saw several bodies lying on the street in pools of blood.

The protests have largely been organised by young people through social media.

"There are some things that are hard to understand, like how can you impose 16% tax on bread? How can you tax sanitary pads?" 24-year-old Derrick Mwathu told the BBC, referring to some of the proposals contained in the original bill.

President Ruto pledged a tough response to what he called the "violence and anarchy".

"It is not in order or even conceivable that criminals pretending to be peaceful protesters can reign terror against the people, their elected representatives and the institutions established under our constitution and expect to go scot-free," Mr Ruto added.

On Wednesday morning Speaker of Parliament Moses Wetangula praised young people for leading the discourse on the finance bill and the state of the economy.

He however said that “violence, disrespect and wanton destruction of property and blatant attack on public institutions shall not be condoned”.

The killing of protesters has also been widely condemned including by human rights defenders, lawyers and the church.

Wanjeri Nderu, head of the International Society For Human Rights, told the BBC what was experienced during the protest was “like we were at war”, adding that police were using live ammunition even before parliament was breached.

Catholic bishops have also condemned the police action , and “earnestly appealed to the police not to shoot at the protesters” while also urging protesters to remain peaceful.

The Law Society of Kenya called on international criminal investigators to help families' quest for justice, saying that it had reports that soldiers were engaging protesters in parliament.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he "deeply saddened by the reports of deaths and injuries - including of journalists and medical personnel - connected to protests and street demonstrations in Kenya".

He also urged the Kenyan authorities to "exercise restraint", and called for all demonstrations to be peaceful.

Map showing significant locations in the Nairobi protests
Both city hall and the parliament building experienced fires on Tuesday [BBC]

Hundreds were reportedly injured, including with rubber bullets and tear gas. At a cathedral in Nairobi where a medical camp had been set up to tend to injured protesters, a BBC reporter witnessed doctors being forced out of the building by soldiers.

Another temporary unit was set up outside the emergency unit at Kenyatta National Hospital.

Doctors leave a building with their hands up
Doctors leave a medical camp they set up for protesters in a Nairobi cathedral after being forced out by military personnel [BBC]

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta urged dialogue, saying Kenya's leaders should "know that power and authority is donated to them by the people".

Although the government has rowed back on some proposals in the original bill, protesters demanded that it be withdrawn in its entirety.

23-year-old Maureen Awuor said: "Our voice must be heard... We are the generation that is coming up, so they need to hear us."

The protests have made headlines across Africa and other parts of the world.

Two of Africa's leading anti-establishment figures, Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine and radical South African politician Julius Malema, have both expressed their support for the protesters.

Western countries have expressed concern at the violence and urged calm.

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