Ahead of Tuesday’s #OccupyParliament protests, Kenya has denied rumors of an internet shutdown. Tuesday’s protests, the third in two weeks, is a final push to get parliament to reject the 2024 Finance Bill, which is now in the committee stage. Members of parliament (MPs) look set to pass the bill despite public opposition and a protest that has caught global attention. 

Images of Kenyan police teargassing protesters and using water canons have gone viral as social media has played a part in amplifying the message of the protesters: reject the finance bill. The scale of the protests surprised the government and authorities considered shuttering internet access to derail Tuesday’s protests, one person familiar with the talks told TechCabal.

Internet shutdowns are common in African countries to suppress opposition during protests or polls. In 2022, seven African countries, including Uganda and Ethiopia, shut down the internet nine times. However, Kenya has never shut down the internet to quell protests. 

The country’s Communications Authority has “no intention whatsoever to shut down internet traffic or interfere with the quality of connectivity,” it said in a Monday statement. An internet shutdown would be “a betrayal of the constitution” and could “sabotage the fast-growing digital economy,” the statement said.

Civil society groups like the Law Society of Kenya argued that an internet shutdown would undermine citizens’ rights to demonstrate and participate in policymaking. 

Parliament will deliberate on the 2024 Finance Bill on Tuesday after it passed a second reading on Thursday. If the bill is ratified at the committee stage—a likely outcome given broad support from MPs in the ruling coalition— President William Ruto is expected to sign it into law on Thursday.

Millions of Kenyans, led by young people, have opposed the 2024 Finance Bill. This discontent has spilled into the digital space, with Kenyans using internet platforms to protest the bill. To spread awareness and visibility of the protests beyond the physical locations in tens of Kenyan towns, social media networks like TikTok and X have become platforms for Kenyans to livestream demonstrations against the proposed tax hikes.

The hashtag #RejectTheFinanceBill2024, has gained traction on X, with over 4 million impressions on Tuesday morning. It has also drawn the attention of Kenyans in the diaspora, who have organised demonstrations abroad.

“I am so angry about this Finance Bill. Although they have removed the tax on bread, we know they have sneaked in other taxes, including a 16% VAT on remittances,” Purity Mwamoyo said while demonstrating with other Kenyans in Washington, DC.

The demonstrations began on June 18 and intensified two days later when parliament members voted to advance the bill to the committee stage.

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