Protest in Kenya over proposed tax hikes in finance bill

Sharon EboesomiJune 18, 20244 min

Many protesters against the bill held signs and placards that read, “Do not force the taxes on us,” referring to the President of Kenya, William Ruto as Zakayo, the Swahili name for the biblical tax collector Zacchaeus.

Protest in Kenya over proposed tax hikes in controversial finance bill

Hundreds of Kenyans have gathered in the country’s capital, Nairobi to protest against the Finance Bill 2024.

The demonstration, which started on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, about 12:00 p.m, is intended to put pressure on the President of Kenya and the country’s legislators to respond to the concerns of the general public, who are urging their representatives to vote against the contentious bill that would impose new taxes and alter the current tax system.

Many protesters held signs and placards that read, “Do not force the taxes on us,” referring to the Kenyan President, William Ruto as Zakayo, the Swahili name for the biblical tax collector Zacchaeus.

Kenyans also went ahead to post their MPs’ contacts on social media, encouraging one another to reach out to their representatives and request that they oppose the bill.

Businesses were forced to temporarily close due to fear of looting when the Police used tear gas canisters on hundreds of demonstrators during the nonviolent protest, which resulted in at least a dozen protesters being arrested.

The majority whip of National Assembly, Sylvanus Osoro, disclosed that he and his colleagues had received hundreds of texts advising them to oppose the bill.

“I want to tell them that we will not reject it because we must fund the government, but we are going to reject contentious clauses,” he said.

Earlier in June, the opposition leader Raila Odinga in a statement urged MPs to scrutinize the bill and vote to remove clauses that would burden the poor.

He said, “It is worse than the one of 2023, an investment killer and a huge millstone around the necks of millions of poor Kenyans who must have hoped that the tears they shed over taxes last year would see the government lessen the tax burden in 2024.” 

The second reading of the bill is scheduled for today Tuesday, with the Finance and Planning Committee’s report being presented. The bill will then proceed to the third reading and voting.

The chairman of the finance committee, Kuria Kimani reported that several significant tax proposals in the bill that sought to impose a 16% VAT tax on bread had been removed.

However, other taxes that had sparked criticism include a 2.5% annual motor vehicle tax that was to be added to insurance. In an additional move to support local manufacturing, a proposed levy on products that are detrimental to the environment will only apply to imports.

OrderPaper recalls that last year’s finance law introduced a 1.5% housing tax on gross income for salaried individuals despite concerns that it would further burden Kenyans already struggling under a high cost of living. The law also doubled the VAT tax on petroleum products from 8% to 16%.

Sharon Eboesomi

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