[KENYA] 14 Voi traders arrested during protest over tax hike

A total of 14 people were on Friday as took to the streets of town, Taita Taveta county, to against the County Finance Act 2018.

Protesters at Voi modern market along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway engaged police in running battles and they were repulsed with teargas.

Police fired in the air to disperse hundreds of traders who stormed Voi police station demanding the release of their colleagues.

Some traders closed their shops in solidarity with the protesters.

They accused the police and county enforcement officers of harassment, saying due process was not followed during the making of the new act.

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The County administration started implementing the Finance Act 2018 on Monday last week.

The new law raises taxes on commodities. According to the new law, a 90kg bag of tomatoes, bananas and potatoes that was previously taxed Sh20 will now be charged Sh60, while ground rent has been increased to Sh2,000 up from Sh1,000.

Similarly, a canter ferrying onions which used to pay Sh2,500 has increased to Sh7,000 while the coconut levy has increased to Sh6,800 up from Sh1,200.

The market traders also complained about double taxation for 45-50kg sacks of agricultural produce from Wundanyi and Taveta farms. While a cess fee of Sh60 is charged at the point of origin, a similar, additional cess fee of Sh60 is charged on the same consignment at the point of arrival in Voi.

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The accused demonstrators were arraigned in Voi law court, but they did not take pleas. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions requested for more time to prepare their charge sheets.

OCPD Joseph Chesire said the traders will be charged on Monday for holding a gathering unlawfully. He urged traders to desist from paralysing business activities in the town.

β€œIf they are unhappy with the new law, let them follow the right channel. We can’t solve problems by closing shops and throwing stones at road users. Let them seek dialogue with the county government,” he said.

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Meanwhile, the High Court in Voi has ordered the county government to respond within seven days to two separate cases filled by Voi and Taveta traders challenging the Finance Act 2018.

The traders filled the cases on Friday under a certificate of urgency.

High Court judge Justice Farah Amin ordered the case to be heard on December 20.

Isabella Sato, Phane Katindi and Godwin Mwakandu petitioned the county government on behalf of Voi traders, while Jacinta Mungai, Shaban Kimori and Simon Thakichu filed a case on behalf of Taveta traders.

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In a petition drawn by lawyers Chrispine Omollo and Duncan Mwanyumba, the traders want the government prohibited from unilaterally and arbitrarily increasing ground rates, rents and market fees and charges without holding adequate public participation forums with all stakeholders.

They have also requested the court to quash the Finance Act 2018, terming it unconstitutional.

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Originally Authored By: the_star


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