Ruto defends Keroche, terms Azimio a group of anti-business leaders

Tabitha Karanja

Keroche Breweries Tabitha Karanja (left) hugs Deputy President William Ruto after joining UDA in Nakuru on January 26, 2022.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Deputy President William Ruto on Wednesday defended Keroche Breweries, the firm associated with Nakuru Senate candidate Tabitha Karanja, which the taxman has shut down over tax arrears.

The DP at the same time expressed concerns over the high cost of living and accused his rival in the presidential race of working with people who were out to kill enterprise.  

Ms Karanja is running for the Nakuru Senate seat on a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket, the same party on whose ticket the DP is seeking the presidency.

The DP, who was accompanied by other Kenya Kwanza Alliance (KKA) leaders Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula in his tour of Kisii, said the government had closed the Naivasha-based brewery, locking out hundreds of employees.

Dr Ruto said more than 400 staff had been rendered jobless and more than 3,000 families that depend on the company affected by its closure.

He explained that Keroche is a big industrialist, employing many Kenyans and giving business to others.

"To say that Keroche has been closed because of the political persuasion of Mama Keroche is the worst insult and worst form of impunity in the Republic of Kenya," he said.

In Kisii, Dr Ruto urged Kenyans top vote en masse on August 9 to remove impunity from Kenya.

"The only mistake the Keroche woman has committed is to decline joining Azimio. Your days are numbered. You cannot close Keroche because of political issues. That is pure politics," said Dr Ruto, who termed Azimio la Umoja Coalition a group of anti-business leaders.

On Tuesday, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) closed the local brewer yet again over fresh tax arrears amounting to Sh322 million.

Business opportunities

"I want to tell Kenyans that these people want to destroy the businesses of the people of Kenya. They cannot tell us about investment, about business opportunities, if they are destroying the business opportunities that exist today in Kenya," said the DP.

On Tuesday, Ms Karanja, who is the CEO of Keroche breweries, asked the KRA for a moratorium to settle the tax arrears, noting that the taxman had in May shut down the brewer despite initial agreements.
Ms Karanja in a statement said that on May 15, the KRA shut down the brewery, rendering hundreds of people jobless.

"After negotiating, we were compelled to enter an agreement whose implementation could not be supported by the company's performance. Our pleas for time to resume payment on attaining full operational performance were rejected, but the KRA promised that we would walk the recovery journey together," said Ms Karanja.

Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula decried the high cost of fuel.

"They increased the fuel prices yesterday. They have closed Keroche and they now want to ban mitumba. Their economic plans are poor. How will the government earn revenue? You have no business being in government," said Mr Mudavadi, who asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to retire peacefully.

On Tuesday, the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) announced a Sh9 rise in fuel prices in its monthly review.

For the next one month, a litre of super petrol in Nairobi will cost Sh159.12, diesel Sh140 and kerosene Sh127.94, marking a record high in fuel prices.

While announcing the latest fuel prices, Epra said in a statement that the government would utilise the Petroleum Development Fund (PDL) to cushion consumers from the otherwise high prices.

Mr Mudavadi asked Azimio candidate Raila Odinga to retire with President Kenyatta after August 9.

Mr Wetang’ula explained that an increase in fuel prices means a hike in other basic commodities.

"When we form our government, we will ensure commodities go at an affordable price. The current government is misusing public institutions," said Mr Wetang’ula.

He added, "The Keroche issue is a very clear case of state abuse of authority. If you are the taxman, you don't kill the goose that lays the eggs. You have to save it to lay the eggs tomorrow. We will help Mama Keroche to fight her case."

Perform its role

Mr Wetang’ula told President Kenyatta to allow the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to perform its role.

"Leave the IEBC to perform its tasks as you do yours. You cannot determine who the candidates are," said Mr Wetang’ula in apparent reference to Nairobi's KKA candidate Johnson Sakaja.

On Tuesday, Mr Sakaja accused President Kenyatta of influencing the revocation of his credentials by the Commission for University Education (CUE).

On June 6, Mr Sakaja wrote that he presented his qualifications to the CUE to ascertain the accreditation status of Team University in Uganda, from which he allegedly obtained his bachelor of science degree in management.

A letter from the university’s academic registrar had confirmed that Mr Sakaja indeed enrolled for that distance learning degree course and graduated on October 21, 2016.

This was confirmed by Prof Mwenda Ntarangwi, CUE’s chief executive.

Dr Ruto, Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula were accompanied by KKA Kisii leaders, who expressed confidence of winning the August 9 General Election.

Dr Ruto asked Kisii residents to support his bid, noting that Mr Odinga had done little to help improve the region's economy.

The DPs visit came just a day after Mr Odinga and his Azimio brigade visited the county, promising to turn around its economy.

"He came here the other day. But what development project can be attached to his name? I am asking you the Abagusii to reject empty rhetoric and vote for change and a better future. Vote for development and not for changing the Constitution," said Dr Ruto.