Protesters in Kenya have been shot dead and fires started inside parliament after politicians voted in favour of a controversial tax bill.

The Kenya Medical Association said at least five people had been killed and 31 injured.

Images from the scene appeared to show a number of motionless bodies on the ground.

Paramedics at the scene said earlier they believed at least 10 people had been killed and around 50 hurt.

It happened as police opened fire when protesters in Nairobi overwhelmed them and entered the parliament compound.

Thousands were on the streets of the capital on Tuesday to demand politicians vote against the new taxes.

Video from inside parliament showed tables and chairs overturned and smashed, while footage outside showed fires, tear gas and water cannon.

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Protesters could be heard shouting “We’re coming for every politician” and some lawmakers were forced to flee parliament through a tunnel.

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Kenyan president vows to restore ‘normalcy’

The office of Nairobi’s governor was also set ablaze and unrest was reported in other towns and cities.

Kenya’s army has been deployed to help deal with what the defence minister called a “security emergency”.

The country’s president, William Ruto, said the protests were “treasonous” and the debate over the new law had been “hijacked by dangerous people”.

He said such violence would not happen again “at whatever cost”.

Mr Ruto must now sign off the law – but can still send it back to parliament if he has objections.

The US has called for calm and said it’s monitoring the situation, while Britain and Germany also expressed deep concern and urged restraint on both sides.

Thousands protested in the capital Nairobi. Pic: Reuters
Thousands protested in Kenyan capital Nairobi. Pic: Reuters

Pic: Reuters
Pic: Reuters

Protesters scatter as Kenya police spray water canon at them during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill in downtown Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)  pic: AP
Police also sprayed coloured water at protesters. Pic: AP

The bill will introduce new taxes, including an eco-levy raising the price of goods like period products and nappies.

Proposals to tax bread, cooking oil, car ownership and financial transactions were removed after a public outcry – with many Kenyans angry over the rising cost of living in the East African country.

There have been protests at every reading of the bill, with Tuesday being the third and final round.

Former US President Barack Obama‘s half-sister, the Kenyan-British activist Auma Obama, was teargassed during a live interview about the situation with CNN.

Demonstrators climb on a water cannon truck. Pic: Reuters
Demonstrators climbed on vehicles and some threw stones at police lines. Pic: Reuters

The Kenya Human Rights Commission shared a video of police shooting at protesters and said they must be held to account.

Addressing President Ruto, the commission wrote on social media: “The world is watching your descent into tyranny! Your regime’s actions is an assault on democracy.

“All those involved in the shooting – actively or passively – must be held to account.”

Protesters scatter as police fire teargas at them during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill in downtown Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, June. 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga) pic: AP
Pic: AP

Pic: Reuters
Police officers try to disperse protesters during a demonstration against Kenya's proposed finance bill 2024/2025 in Nairobi, Kenya, June 25, 2024. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi
Pic: Reuters

The president had earlier said he wanted to have dialogue with the protesters and was “proud” of them.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga called for the bill to be immediately withdrawn.

In a statement, he said: “I am disturbed at the murders, arrests, detentions and surveillance being perpetrated by police on boys and girls who are only seeking to be heard over taxation policies that are stealing both their present and future.”

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Security forces have been accused of abducting prominent Kenyans, especially those with large social media followings.

The Kenya Law Society president, Faith Odhiambo, said 50 Kenyans, including her personal assistant, had been “abducted” by people believed to be police.

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Broadcaster KTN News said authorities had threatened to shut it down over its coverage of the protests, while internet services also experienced severe disruptions during the unrest, according to internet monitor Netblocks.

The protests come as around 200 Kenyan police landed in Haiti as part of a UN-backed contingent hoping to stabilise the country after months of unrest and gang violence.