Police say at least six killed and 50 children tear-gassed in Kenyan protests

Six people were killed by police during protests across Kenya, a police official has said.

A health worker also said that more than 50 schoolchildren in the capital, Nairobi, were tear-gassed.

Protests have broken out across the country against the rising cost of living.

The opposition leader behind the demonstrations vowed that they would continue until a new law imposing taxes is repealed.

Anti-government protesters are demonstrating against newly imposed taxes and the cost of living (Samson Otieno/AP)

The police official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said three people were killed in Mlolongo city in Machakos county, two in Kitengela town near Nairobi, and one in the town of Emali on the highway to the port city of Mombasa.

The officer said more than 10 people were taken to hospitals.

According to the official, the six who were killed were shot for disrupting businesses, but did not elaborate any further.

The police have been criticised by human rights watchdogs for their sometimes deadly response to such protests.

A health records worker at the Eagle Nursing Home clinic in Nairobi’s Kangemi neighbourhood said 53 children were treated after tear gas was thrown into their school.

The children, aged 10 to 15 had been in shock, said Alvin Sikuku.

Mr Sikuku said: “At this point they are OK, with their parents. Right now, things are cool.”

One civil society watchdog, the Independent Medico-Legal Unit, said it was “horrifying to hear about police officers using such excessive force.”

Dozens of protesters in Nairobi burned tires and dismantled part of an entrance to a recently built expressway.

For some, the expressway stands as a symbol of inequality – a relatively lightly travelled highway by those who can afford it as everyday traffic surges below.

Traffic came to a halt amid the chaos.

Protesters carry a placard in Swahili that reads ‘Ruto, what is wrong with your thinking, we are fed up’ (Samson Otieno/AP)

In a statement, Kenya’s interior ministry accused opposition supporters of “extensive damage of major public assets” and asserted that scores of civilians and law enforcement officers were injured.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who lost last year’s election to President William Ruto, has repeatedly called on Kenyans to protest as the country struggles with debt and rising prices.

Mr Odinga said that such protests will continue and he accused police of blocking access to the site where he had planned to make a speech.

He also accused police of using excessive force against protesters.

Mr Odinga said: “All our engagements are peaceful until the police show up.”

New taxes have added to frustration in East Africa’s economic hub, with inflation at around 8%.

Taxes on petroleum products, including gasoline, have doubled from 8% to 16%, which is expected to have a ripple effect.

Mr Odinga called on Mr Ruto to repeal the act imposing the new tax measures.

“People are tired of going to bed hungry, facing the new day hungry and returning to bed hungry,” he said.

Protesters and the police clashed in the Mathare neighbourhood of Nairobi (AP)

Most Kenyans either get on with their day or stay home during such demonstrations, but the economic toll of the demonstrations is yet another challenge for Mr Ruto, who won the election after appealing to Kenyans as a fellow “hustler” of modest background and vowing to lessen their everyday financial pain.

Lilian Anyango, a Nairobi resident, said: “Our children are not going to school, we are not affording food. Now we cannot go to work due to the protest.

“We do not have options. We do not know what we will do with the current government.”

Police have been criticised by human rights watchdogs for their assertion that any demonstration needs advance notification “in the interest of national security”.

Kenya’s constitution includes the right to peacefully demonstrate.

In a letter calling the protests “illegal”, Japhet Koome, the national police inspector general said: “All lawful means will be used to disperse such demonstrations.”

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