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    A mother’s pain as the first victim of Kenya’s deadly protests is buried


    NAIROBI, Kenya — Edith Wanjiku holds onto one of the few photos she’s left with of her teenage son Ibrahim Kamau. His life was cut short by two gunshot wounds to his neck that were sustained during Kenya’s deadly protests on Tuesday in which more than 20 people were killed.

    The 19-year-old Kamau was among thousands of protesters who stormed parliament while calling for legislators to vote against a finance bill that would increase taxes. Police opened fire and several people were killed on the spot.

    Kamau had just completed high school and planned to study electrical work.

    “He was operating a motorcycle taxi while he waits to join college,” Wanjiku told The Associated Press during her son’s funeral on Friday.

    Kamau was the first victim of Tuesday’s protests to be buried in a Muslim ceremony that was attended by hundreds, including the area’s member of parliament, Yusuf Hassan.

    As Wanjiku stood outside the Muslim cemetery in Nairobi’s Kariakor neighborhood, she was overwhelmed by emotions and had to be whisked away to sit down.

    “It is so painful. I’m still in disbelief and keep hoping he will wake up,” she says.

    The mother of four struggled to educate Kamau and his older sister by doing menial work while living in Nairobi’s Biafra slum.

    “I don’t even have many photos of him, because I lost them when our house burned down some years back,” she says.

    Tuesday’s deadly protests were called by young people who felt let down by legislators who voted for a controversial finance bill during its second reading. They had hoped to convince the legislators not to pass the bill in the final vote and when it sailed through, they stormed into parliament and burnt part of the building.

    Human rights groups have accused police of brutality and killings during the protests. The policing oversight body IPOA on Wednesday released preliminary findings on investigations into police conduct during the protests that showed plainclothes officers shooting at protesters. The body has summoned some officers to record statements.

    Another victim of Tuesday’s shooting, Ian Keya, has undergone surgery at a hospital in Nairobi but he “may never walk again,” his brother told the AP on Friday.

    Keya was shot in his back three times by a plainclothes officer, according to witnesses who told his brother.

    “The shots were close range, and one may have damaged his kidney while the other hit the spine,” his brother, Edward, told the AP.

    The discontent among young people is growing despite President William Ruto saying he wouldn’t sign the contentious bill and sending it back to parliament for deletion of clauses that would increase taxes on common goods like imported eggs, sanitary towels and diapers to meet a budget deficit.

    Ruto was elected in 2022 on a platform of change and hope for young people. He promised to lower the cost of living, but his move to increase taxes in the 2023 finance bill and this recent one has made him unpopular.

    His deputy president, Rigathi Gachagua, on Wednesday questioned how a government that was a “darling” of the people became so unpopular to cause an assault on parliament.

    The president and his deputy are now banking on dialogue to provide an opportunity for young people to express their concerns and make suggestions. But the Generation Z movement that called the protests is leaderless and it remains unclear how the dialogue will be had.

    Ruto on Wednesday announced austerity measures that include the cutting down of his own travel and hospitality budget, which has been a major concern for the young people struggling to get by.

    For Wanjiku, all she wants is, “justice for my son and for the president to ensure no one else is killed in this country.”



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