Traders, police clash in Voi over county taxes

A policeman and a civilian watch from a distance as traders scamper to safety as police hurled tear gas canisters to break up an illegal meeting in Voi town. Traders were protesting of colleagues. PHOTO | LUCY MKANYIKA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Police officers and the traders engaged in running battles, turning Voi streets into a no-go zone.

Police on Friday were forced to use teargas to disperse traders in Voi town, Taita Taveta County who were demanding the release of their colleagues.

The traders were protesting the arrest of nine colleagues at Caltex market on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway during a meeting called to protest over high taxes levied by the county government.

Police officers and the traders engaged in running battles, turning Voi streets into a no-go zone.

The traders burning tyres and stones to barricade Voi Town Road and police officers reacted by firing tear gas canister at the protesters.

The protests brought business in the town to a standstill and shop owners shut their downs for fear of being caught up in the chaos.

Voi Traders Association officials blamed the police for harassing them with no apparent reason.

“We were peaceful but they lobbed teargas [canisters] into the market where we were holding our meeting and arrested our members,” said the association’s chairperson Isabella Sato.

OCPD Joseph Chesire said the traders will be charged with unlawful gathering, adding that they blocked their colleagues from accessing the market on Friday morning. 

“The traders were harassing their colleagues who did not want to join in their boycott of taxes. If they wanted to hold a meeting then they should have sought authorisation,” he said.

The traders have been agitating for lower taxes after the county government started implementing the 2018 Financial Act on Monday last week.

The new law has increased taxes charged on agricultural produce by up to 100 percent.

Meanwhile, a businessman has filed a petition at the county assembly to amend the contested Finance law.

Mr Morris Mutiso said the county government did not adhere to the public participation principle by seeking views from relevant stakeholders.

The traders are also expected to move to court to challenge the law on Monday, December 10, 2018.

Taveta and Voi traders said they will boycott paying taxes until the county government reduces the levies.