Thousands of laborers, students and opposition politicians on Saturday protested tax hikes imposed by their cash-strapped government, which they say has failed to provide basic services.
Beneath a scorching sun, they sang anti-government songs and chanted "Moi must go," showing their derision for President Daniel arap Moi, Kenya's ruler for 20 years.By voice vote, the 5,000 protesters approved a resolution calling for the government to scrap new taxes, convene a convention to write a new constitution, stop harassing students and street vendors, and halt ethnic violence.
If the government doesn't respond to the demands, workers should go on strike April 3, said Kivutha Kibwana, of the National Convention Assembly, a group of opposition political, church and civic leaders who organized the rally.
Although the crowd cheered its support, the assembly's calls for general strikes have failed in the past.
Kenyans are most angered by tax increases announced earlier this month to plug a widening budget deficit.
The price of gas and diesel went up, and tax deductions were revoked on gifts to charities and nonprofit organizations.
Several politicians say that the high taxes Kenyans already pay go into the pockets of government officials or to wasteful projects, and not into providing essential services and repairing crumbling infrastructure.
"I would like Moi to explain and bring back the money he has stolen," said Kenneth Matiba, who ran second to Moi in the 1992 election.
The International Monetary Fund pressed for the tax hikes, warning that otherwise Kenya's budget deficit for 1997-98 will reach 3.9 percent of the gross domestic product - more than double the goal of 1.7 percent.
The IMF last year withheld a $220 million loan for Kenya, citing official corruption and mismanagement.