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KENYA'S FIGHT, AFRICA'S FIGHT: TOGETHER AGAINST DEBT AND IMF INJUSTICE



A Justice for Africa statement of solidarity with Kenyan Citizens and Members of the National Assembly resisting the Finance Bill 2024.


Responsibility for the violent and bloody scenes on the streets of Nairobi last week does not just lay with the tone-deaf leadership of the Government of Kenya, the police who used teargas, water cannons, rubber and live bullets on youth-led protestors, or the security forces who kidnapped assumed movement leaders, but also with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the rich countries that control the IMF . 


As youth- and student-led organisations united by the Justice for Africa campaign, we reaffirm our demand that the appalling treatment of Africa by the rich countries that control the IMF and the international system must end now. The current system is unjust, inexcusable and as we have seen in Kenya, reaps deadly consequences on increasing poverty, inequality and social unrest that has been met with indiscriminate police brutality, the killing of children and destruction of property.


We share the anger of our Kenyan peers on the devastating impacts this spiralling debt crisis has on their rights and lives. Kenya is one of 14 African countries whose debt servicing is now over 500% what it was a decade ago. In 2012, the amount of money spent by African governments on debt was around half of the money spent on education, now that number is over 100% and growing. Millions of school-aged children in Africa have lived their whole lives with their country trapped in unsustainable debt and education is just one of their rights that is paying the price. 


Kenya’s debt is currently over $78 billion, equal to roughly 70% of their GDP and debt servicing costs account for more than half of its annual tax revenue. This is completely unsustainable and should be cancelled immediately. Yet, the IMF has not only continued to irresponsibly lend Kenya more money, but used this opportunity to impose harsh conditions on these loans, pushing the Kenyan government into prioritising repaying international creditors over the survival of its citizens. 


How does the IMF get away with imposing such cruel conditions? Because rich countries like the UK and France have more votes at the IMF than all the 54 countries in Africa, as they have since the IMF was founded in colonial times, and use this control to act in their own interests, regardless of the African lives lost in the process. 


For example, if the emergency funding (SDRs) the IMF released during the COVID-19 pandemic had actually been for poorer countries as the headlines claimed, and ring-fenced for low and lower-middle income countries, Africa’s share of SDRs would have been enough to cancel all low-income country debt on the continent. Instead of choosing to end this crisis, the rich countries that control the IMF decided to keep most of the money for themselves. 


Instead of leading an African call for full debt cancellation, President Ruto, the AU’s champion for institutional reform and a vocal advocate of changing the international financial system, seems to have sided with rich country banks, doing their bidding over demanding justice for Kenyans and Africans. As well as enabling political wastage and corruption, his government has consistently implemented the IMF’s recommendations for strict austerity measures and regressive taxes that target the extremely poor, such as the proposed tax hikes on necessities including internet data, fuel, bread and even sanitary pads in the 2024 Finance Bill. As Jason Hinkel states, this is “effectively a mechanism of bailing out big banks by taking resources from the poor


Over 5 million more Kenyans live on less than $2.15 a day since the start of the Sustainable Development Goals. The burden of submitting to a global financial system that even the UN Secretary General has called “morally corrupt” should not fall on those already struggling to survive in extreme poverty: Kenyan young people are right to protest this injustice. 


This is already the worst debt crisis the world has ever seen, but it is set to get much worse, with the World Bank estimating that “repayments on publicly guaranteed debt are expected to increase by 56% in the next two years”. This would be a catastrophe for Africa, which is currently home to 90% of all the people living in a country at high or medium risk of debt distress. 


The choices that the Kenyan government and the IMF have made so far are not immovable. These systems are man-made and if fairer, more just decisions are made, a different outcome is possible. High-income country central banks helped cause this problem by creating over $15 trillion in new money during the COVID-19 pandemic, they can afford to write off the less than $2 trillion Africa owes. It is only a question of how many more will suffer before the debt is cancelled.


Join Justice for Africa in demanding an end to a system where the richest countries continue to decide the rules the poorest must live by: www.100million.org/justice-for-africa 


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