The Taita Taveta County government will continue issuing business permits and levying taxes in Mtito Andei town until January 25 next year.
This is after the Environment and Land Court extended the interim orders it had issued regarding the matter.
Makueni and Taita Taveta have both laid claim to Mtito Andei.
Justice Lucas Naikuni had initially issued the orders following an application by activist Okiya Omtatah, whose petition seeks to compel the National Assembly and the Senate to appoint an independent commission to resolve boundary disputes involving Taita Taveta,
Makueni and Kwale counties.
Makueni had opposed extending the orders, saying they were granted without considering its response.
It argued that Mr Omtatah had misled the court by claiming that the defunct council in Taita Taveta was issuing business permits and collecting revenues from residents of Mtito Andei town before the inception of devolution.
However, Mr Omtatah told the court that the interim orders would last only until the hearing of his application and should be extended until then.
The Attorney-General told the court that the orders were unconstitutional.
In extending the orders, Justice Naikuni said the matter could not be left in abeyance.
Makueni officials said the defunct Mtito Andei town council was in charge of issuing business permits and levying taxes in the town before county governments were established.
In September, Justice Naikuni temporarily appointed the Taita Taveta County government as the only authority to issue business permits and levy county taxes in Mackinnon Road and Mtito Andei towns as its predecessor did before devolution.
He also directed the Taita Taveta government to deposit all revenues collected in an interest-earning bank account opened jointly with the Kwale and Makueni governments, which also claim part of the towns.
The AG, the Senate and Makueni have also filed notices of preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case.
Mr Omtatah’s petition claims that because of the boundary dispute, traders who used to pay taxes to the predecessor of Taita Taveta County are being forced to pay taxes twice to two different counties.
“Due to the confusion, traders don’t know (from) which county they should demand services and accountability for the taxes they pay,” he argues.
Mr Omtatah says he received a letter from residents of Taita Taveta County asking him to intervene and help them find a solution to the boundary disputes that have been in place since colonial days.
He argues that according to a report prepared in 2015 by a boundary committee appointed by the Taita Taveta government, the dispute with Makueni is over the location of Mtito Andei.
The petitioner also says the report said the dispute between Taita Taveta and Kwale is over the location of Mackinnon Road town.
Mr Omtatah also notes that there are no beacons clearly demarcating the boundaries between Taita Taveta and the two neighbouring counties.
“The two boundary disputes do not just concern the actual boundaries of Taita Taveta County, they are also based on the allegation that the current county boundaries are unfair because they are based on historical injustices,” Mr Omtatah argues.
At the centre of the dispute, he argues, is the issue of who collects taxes in the disputed towns, which are key tax collection points.
“The disputes have created tension on the ground and have a very high potential of turning violent in the 2022 General Election, hence if unresolved they have the potential of undermining the objectives of devolution and national security,” he argues.
He says that he is aggrieved that Parliament has not set up an independent commission to look into the boundary disputes and recommend the way forward.
Mr Omtatah also wants the executive arm of government to survey and erect visible beacons to clearly demarcate the boundaries of all counties in Kenya, with priority given to Taita Taveta, Kwale and Makueni counties.
He wants the court to declare that forcing residents of Mtito Andei and Mackinnon Road towns to pay double taxes is a gross violation of their rights.
Mr Omtatah also wants the court to order Parliament to set up an independent commission to resolve the disputes, and that lawmakers should do so within three months of the order being issued.