“The people have spoken.” These were the words of Kenyan President William Ruto after eating humble pie and retracting a controversial finance bill that fuelled deadly protests in Kenya.

In a televised address on Wednesday afternoon, Ruto acknowledged the “widespread expression of dissatisfaction” after the bill was passed on Tuesday. “Having reflected on the continuing conversation regarding the content of the Finance Bill 2024 and listening keenly to the people of Kenya who have said loudly that they want nothing to do with this Finance Bill 2024, I concede, and therefore I will not sign the 2024 finance bill.”

Kenya saw what initially began as peaceful demonstrations turn violent on Tuesday, leaving several people dead and dozens more injured. The controversial finance bill would have raised taxes on citizens already burdened by a high cost of living

The protests turned violent on Tuesday after protestors were set upon by police who fired live ammunition and tear gas after protestors tried gaining entry into the country’s parliament building. Ruto’s government then deployed the military, a drastic change in rhetoric after Ruto praised the young protestors on Sunday. Members of Gen Z had mainly led the peaceful protests.

Ruto, in a televised address on Tuesday night, called the protests “treasonous”. He  threatened that the protests would be met with the full might of the law. “The government will secure the nation, and any threats to national security are a danger to the Republic and will be dealt with,” Ruto said.

However, now that Ruto will not be signing the bill, he’s singing a different tune. He has sent his condolences to those who lost loved ones and has committed to engaging with the youth. I propose an engagement with young people of our nation to listen to their issues and agree with them on their priority areas of concern.”

The Kenyan government passed the bill on Tuesday but made small changes, removing some of the more contentious proposals. Initially, the bill called for a 16% and 25% sales tax on bread and oil, respectively, an annual vehicle tax of 2.5% of the vehicle’s value, and a tax increase on financial transactions. These and an additional “eco levy” on manufactured goods deemed detrimental to the environment have been removed from the bill.

Senior Africa Analyst at Verisk Maplecroft Andrew Smith said that many of the protestors felt let down by Ruto, who pledged to reduce the cost of living when he came to power in 2022. Smith said that Ruto had done the opposite and had “seriously misjudged” how angry the Kenyan people are about the tax hikes and other socio-economic factors.