Kenya: Ruto accused of playing politics in tax game as he baits the opposition

By Victor Abuso

Posted on Tuesday, 7 February 2023 16:58
Kenya's President William Ruto (photo: @WilliamsRuto)

Kenya President William Ruto is facing heavy criticism from the opposition, who accuse him of politicising his government's campaign to compel all Kenyans to pay taxes, by targeting former president Uhuru Kenyatta and his family.

Led by Azimio la Umoja (One Kenya) coalition leader Raila Odinga, the opposition has told Ruto – who they have nicknamed ‘Zacchaeus the tax collector’ – to desist from targeting the former first family, and leave the campaign to the Kenya Revenue Authority.

“Let KRA do its work and stop politicising this matter. Leave Mama Ngina [Kenyatta’s mother] alone. Leave Uhuru Kenyatta alone,” Raila told supporters at a rally in Nairobi on Sunday.

“Tax cheats and all sorts of criminals are with Ruto in his government, but he is pretending to be looking for criminals outside his government,” Raila said.

Kenyatta’s mother, Ngina Kenyatta, who avoids the public eye, has since broken her silence to speak on Ruto’s accusations of tax evasion.

“There is no need for politicking. It is not true that I have not paid tax. They know they are not telling the truth”,” she said, adding that she is willing to have her property auctioned if it is revealed that she did not pay her taxes.

Kenyatta, for his part, told off Ruto saying: “Stop talking too much and focus on service delivery.”

During the Nairobi rally on Sunday, Raila also told supporters that “if you inherit a dead man’s property you don’t pay tax”, as has been the case since 1982.

This, he said, also applies to the former head of state, who inherited wealth from his father, the late Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president after independence.

Tax push to avoid national debt

Ruto’s administration is reported to be investigating more than 300 companies, which are associated with powerful individuals in the previous governments, for tax evasion.

The individuals from the former regime are accused of sponsoring opposition rallies to avoid paying tax.

Ruto says he plans to save the country from debt, build a strong economic base and help finance its annual budget of Ksh 3.6trn ($2.8bn).

“We are all equal before the law and we will pay our taxes in accordance with our income,” said Ruto, responding to the opposition.

Ruto and his allies should avoid addressing this matter in political forums, he will be seen as targeting his opponents

He has also urged Kenyans to stop taking the taxman to court and instead “have discussions with KRA and have a plan on how to pay your taxes”.

However, Brian Wanyama, political analyst, tells The Africa Report that Ruto must change tact in his campaign if he wants to succeed in convincing powerful individuals to pay their taxes.

“Ruto and his allies should avoid addressing this matter in political forums, he will be seen as targeting his opponents,” says Wanyama.

Ruto’s tax campaign is taking shape in a politically charged environment, at a time when his competitors have announced that he is an illegitimate president and wants him to resign over accusations that he did not win the August 2022 presidential poll.

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