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Kenyan Government Drops Punitive Taxes as Protests Rock Nairobi


GOOBJOOG NEWS | NAIROBI: Kenya’s ruling coalition Tuesday yielded to pressure from various stakeholders and dropped a number of contentious clauses in the proposed Finance Bill 2024 as the house committee prepared to table the report with recommendations to the country’s parliament.

On Tuesday, Kenyans took to the streets in Nairobi to protest against the proposed laws which proposed hikes on essential commodities, housing, vehicles and financial services.

Kenya’s president William Ruto, who has been on the spotlight from the opposition, public and civil societies who accuse him of being extravagant in spending public resources, announced that the revisions were made after considering feedback from all stakeholders during participation sessions.

“We are going to end up with a product in Parliament that came from the Executive and has been interrogated by the Legislature. Through public participation, the people of Kenya have had a say,” Ruto said.

Key amendments to the bill include the removal of the proposed 16 percent value-added tax (VAT) on bread, sugar transportation, financial services, foreign exchange transactions, and the 2.5 percent Motor Vehicle Tax.

Additionally, there will be no increase in mobile money transfer fees, and excise duty on vegetable oil has been eliminated. Levies on the Housing Fund and Social Health Insurance will not attract income tax.

The proposed Eco Levy will now only apply to imported finished products that contribute to electronic waste, sparing locally manufactured products such as sanitary towels, diapers, phones, computers, tires and motorcycles.

Running Battles

But despite Ruto’s announcement that the changes had been made to the proposed Financial Bill, protests erupted in the country’s capital with anti-riot police engaging in running battles and lobbing teargas to disperse protesters who were demanding that lawmakers reject the bill.

Members of Parliament from both the ruling coalition Kenya Kwanza and opposition Azimio were summoned by their respective leaderships to meetings Tuesday to firm up positions on the Bill.

The Azimio coalition urged its members to shoot down the bill but with the committee recommending the deletion of the punitive taxes, it remains to be seen how the MPs will approach the debate on the Bill.

Kenya’s Law Society of Kenya condemned police interference on the Finance Bill protests, warning of legal action against unlawful directives.

LSK President Faith Odhiambo said they were closely monitoring the events and will take legal action to hold Nairobi Regional Police Commander Adamson Bungei and any officer who violates the rights of protesters on his orders personally liable for any violations of the Constitution and the National Police Service Act.