In a dramatic turn of events, President William Ruto has refused to sign the contentious 2024 Finance Bill, sending it back to Parliament for further review.

The bill, passed by Parliament earlier this week, faced widespread opposition from citizens, opposition lawmakers, and civil society groups. For instance, the betting industry was bracing for a hefty 20% excise duty if the bill had been enacted.

A Presidential Veto

By returning the bill, President Ruto has effectively vetoed the legislation, forcing Parliament to revisit it. This means lawmakers must now decide whether to amend the bill, scrap it, or attempt to pass it again.

This move is especially notable as it comes shortly after Ruto condemned the protests against the bill, which tragically led to eight deaths. He had labelled these protests as “treasonous” and called on security forces to restore order.

A Surprising Concession

Ruto’s decision to send the bill back is seen as a significant concession, especially since it was widely expected that he would sign it despite the opposition.

The bill had the support of the majority of MPs from his ruling coalition, with 195 voting in favour and 104 opposition MPs voting against it. However, the ongoing protests, with more demonstrations planned for Thursday, may have influenced his decision.

Public Outrage Criticisms of Ruto’s Response

The Finance Bill proposed new taxes on essential commodities like edible oil and sanitary pads, sparking public outrage across the country. The widespread discontent was clear, with Kenyans voicing their frustrations through protests and social media.

Amidst the turmoil, criticisms of President Ruto’s delayed response have been vocal. International Correspondent Larry Madowo notably commented, “President William Ruto could have withdrawn the Finance Bill a few days ago and saved lives. But he was obstinate, and I watched police shoot protesters dead for no reason at all.”

It remains unclear when Parliament will reconvene to address the bill. With the legislature set to be out of session next month, any further action might be delayed. Ruto’s decision to return the bill could be a strategic move to de-escalate tensions ahead of the planned protests and reduce potential violence.

As Kenyans await the next steps, it is evident that public pressure can influence political decisions. The fate of the 2024 Finance Bill now lies in the hands of Parliament, and the nation watches closely to see how this political drama will unfold.

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