Tax row: President Ruto allies warn Raila Odinga over 'economic sabotage'

Raila Odinga

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition leader Raila Odinga and Jubilee Party Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni during the rally in Nairobi on June 27, 2023.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Raila recently announced measures to deny the government tax to push for the repealing of the Finance Act, 2023, which the opposition has labelled “punitive”.

President William Ruto’s allies on Wednesday accused opposition leader Raila Odinga of “economic sabotage”, saying the government would not take his threats lying down.

The Kenya Kwanza Alliance leaders said any attempts to provoke “chaos” through civil disobedience would meet the full force of the law.

National Assembly Majority Leader, Kimani Ichung’wa, said violence would lead to the destruction of property.

“If he takes that line, he will face the Interior Cabinet Secretary, Inspector-General of Police and General Service Unit officers,” Mr Ichung’wa said.

Mr Odinga on Tuesday announced measures to deny the government tax to push for the repealing of the Finance Act, 2023, which the opposition has labelled “punitive”.

Saying nationwide protests would resume, he urged tax boycotts by limiting fuel consumption and asked public service vehicle owners and operators to support the boycotts by maintaining the current fares but doubling their carrying capacity.

The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya alliance leader asked traffic police officers to allow matatus to carry standing passengers.

He told businesses to disable or avoid electronic tax registers, make nil returns on value-added tax and give discounts to customers.

Mr Odinga also urged employers to ignore deductions of workers’ salaries.

“The deducted money will only benefit a few individuals in government,” he said, adding that Kenyans should deny government vehicles and motorcades the right of way.

Senate Majority Leader, Aaron Cheruiyot, dismissed Mr Odinga’s calls, saying the opposition coalition resolutions at Kamukunji grounds in Nairobi on Tuesday “are bizarre and incoherent”.

Media and household goods

“The Azimio leaders should forego their retirement benefits running into hundreds of millions of shillings and walk to their offices to avoid consuming highly taxed fuel,” the Kericho senator said.

MPs Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Nelson Koech (Belgut) and Nominated Senator Essy Okenyuri accused Mr Odinga of inciting Kenyans against the government.

“Anyone advancing a case against his own country is an enemy of the people he purports to represent,” Mr Nyoro said.

“You announce that people should walk to work then jump into a fuel guzzler minutes later. That paradox exposes the recklessness of opposition leaders.”

He added that the opposition is supposed to fashion itself as an alternative government.

Mr Koech said Mr Odinga should not incite Kenyans against the government after losing in the National Assembly during the passage of the Finance Bill, 2023.

“It is dishonest to call on Kenyans to disobey laws that have been enacted by the Parliament in a process his party and MPs participated,” the Belgut lawmaker said.

“He has once urged his supporters to boycott media and household goods for refusing to serve his political interests. He is now asking matatus to carry excess passengers and endangering lives.”

Ms Okenyuri said governments need taxes for development.

“If he starves the government of revenue and forces a collapse of our economy, it is the ordinary Kenyans who will suffer. Raila has access to the best private hospitals,” Ms Okenyuri said.

She accused Mr Odinga of insincerity, even after President William Ruto accepted to have talks with the opposition.

Mr Odinga called for an end to the bipartisan talks, saying it is time for action.