Dissenting voices

Kenya: Rebellion rocks ruling party over mandatory housing levy

By Victor Abuso

Posted on June 1, 2023 14:06

 © Kenya’s President William Ruto (photo: @WilliamsRuto)
Kenya’s President William Ruto (photo: @WilliamsRuto)

One resignation and open defiance by some ruling United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party MPs show cracks in President William Ruto’s proposal to increase taxes and introduce a mandatory Housing Fund levy among employees.

UDA vice chairperson Seth Panyako resigned after he openly criticised the tax proposal, saying Ruto has failed to tackle the high cost of living.

Panyako also accused Ruto of forgetting his promises made to ordinary Kenyans – ‘hustlers’ in party lingo – during the 2022 political campaigns before he clinched the presidency. “I have decided to leave the UDA party. I want to remain with the people,” he told supporters at a funeral in Kakamega, Western region.

Following his dissenting opinion, Panyako says President Ruto called him personally, asking him to leave the ruling party.

“When you are asked to leave someone’s party, what do you do? You exit,” Panyako added, accusing Ruto’s administration of state capture.

After his exit, Panyako now plans to launch his own group, the Party-Less People Movement. He says it will be a political outfit that will bring together people who do not wish to belong to any political party.

UDA dismisses Panyako

UDA Secretary General Cleophas Malala described Panyako’s exit as inconsequential to the party activities.

Malala describes the ruling party as a democratic outfit that supports divergent views and positive criticism, despite one of its officials leaving.

“We are not a dictatorship party. We shall try to talk to people who don’t understand our government’s policy,” he said.

Despite the assurance, a silent rebellion is brewing in the ruling party and among close associates who secretly oppose Ruto’s unpopular tax increases, Wycliffe Odera, political analyst, tells The Africa Report.

“Ruto should listen to opposition voices within his government. His policies are unpopular with the people who voted for him,” he says.

With bipartisan political talks between the government and the opposition on the brink of collapse, Odera warns that if nothing changes, politicians – mainly MPs supporting Ruto – will resolve to join the opposition.

“Ruto’s MPs don’t want to lose the people; they will cross into the opposition,” he adds.

Dissenting voices

Githunguri MP Gathoni Wamuchomba has publicly opposed Ruto’s policy on increased taxes.

Meeting her constituents in central Kenya, Wamuchomba says ordinary Kenyans are unhappy with Ruto’s proposals at a time when they cannot afford basic needs like maize flour.

“I will vote no for the proposals. I will not abandon the people, they are saying no,” she said.

Political activist and lawyer Miguna Miguna is warning that if Ruto proceeds with increasing taxes, he risks losing popular support from ordinary Kenyans who voted for him.

“Pull back. Listen to Kenyans. Withdraw the Finance Bill 2023. Postpone the implementation of the housing levy. Return to the Drawing Board,” Miguna told Ruto in a tweet.

Despite the silent rebellion, President Ruto has said on a number of occasions that his government will not back down on its quest to collect more taxes in order to build the economy, saying he inherited a broke country.

Opposition chief Raila Odinga has instructed MPs from his Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition to vote against the proposals.

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