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Uhuru, DP Ruto happy with Raila’s decision

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President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto say the October 26 presidential repeat election will go on whether Nasa leader Raila Odinga participates or not.

Addressing a rally at Voi Stadium, Taita-Taveta County, the Jubilee leaders, who were there to seek support ahead of the vote, said it is not written in the Constitution that Mr Odinga must contest the election.

“He should stop taking Kenyans in circles,” President Kenyatta said in reaction to news of Mr Odinga’s withdrawal from the race.

“If the journey has become too tough for him, he can relax.”

COURT VERDICT
He added: “I expect elections on October 26 for Kenyans to decide who their leader should be.”

“No one individual should stand in the path of progress of 45 million Kenyans,” President Kenyatta said at the end of his three-day tour of Coast.

The President reiterated that he won the August 8 polls but only accepted a repeat poll as per the Supreme Court verdict to avoid chaos.

He said it is Mr Odinga who challenged his election in court “and has now announced his withdrawal from the race”, adding that the Sh12 billion set aside for the poll should have been channelled to development.

NO MATTER
The Head of State said the Supreme Court cleared him and the electoral agency of any wrongdoing in the August elections and that irregularities were only found in forms.

“We are ready for the election if he (Mr Odinga) will be there or not,” President Kenyatta said.

Mr Ruto said Mr Odinga should stop taking Kenyans round in circles.

“We are told Raila has withdrawn from the election. We want to tell him we are ready whether he will be there or not. It is his constitutional right to vie or not,” Mr Ruto said.

SAMBOJA

President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto opposed Mr Odinga’s push for fresh elections to be held after 90 days, saying Kenyans were tired and wanted to continue with their lives.

They urged Taita-Taveta residents to give them more votes in the repeat poll than they did in August, citing Jubilee’s development record.

The two also praised Taita- Taveta Governor Granton Samboja’s announcement that he will work with Jubilee government for growth.

Mr Samboja was elected on a Wiper ticket, which is a Nasa affiliate.

UNCHALLENGED

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko said President Kenyatta should be sworn in for a second term following Mr Odinga’s withdrawal.

Meanwhile, Jubilee MPs on Tuesday called on IEBC to declare Uhuru Kenyatta the President following Mr Odinga’s withdrawal.

They said the only option is to declare Uhuru the President because he has no competitor.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale said despite Odinga’s withdrawal, the repeat poll will still be held and Uhuru Kenyatta will be declared the winner.

“There will be elections as earlier planned on October 26 and President Kenyatta will win,” Mr Duale said.

“Now that we only have Uhuru Kenyatta as the presidential candidate, IEBC should give us the nod to proceed to Kasarani to swear in Uhuru ,” nominated MP Cecily Mbarire said.

CRISIS

Igembe North MP Maoka Maore said Mr Odinga has been misled by his lawyers thinking that he will benefit from his withdrawal or cause any crisis.

Kieni MP Kanini Kega accused Mr Odinga of trying to cause a constitutional crisis by withdrawing his candidature just days to the repeat poll.

Laikipia Woman Rep Catherine Waruguru thanked Mr Odinga for “conceding defeat”.

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Briefing Room

Somali government introduces 5% sales tax to boost revenues

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The Somali government has launched an aggressive tax collection campaign. The administration has imposed a five percent sales tax as part of efforts to win billions of dollars in international debt relief. However there are concerns on whether the country’s powerful businessmen pay up.

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Hunted and hated, Somali tax collectors gird for battle

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MOGADISHU, Feb 16 (Reuters) – Ahmed Nur moves through the Somali capital of Mogadishu with a bodyguard of six men, a pistol in the waistband of his baggy trousers. He speaks of his work in whispers; seven of his colleagues have been killed in the last three years. But Nur is no intelligence operative. He’s a tax collector.

Now the central government’s imposition of a five percent sales tax last month, part of its efforts to win billions of dollars in international debt relief, have put him at the heart of a showdown with the country’s most powerful businessmen.

So far, the government’s efforts have been slowly working; domestic revenue was up to $141 million in 2017 from $110 million in 2016, said Finance Minister Abdirahman Duale Beileh.

But much more is needed before the government is self-sufficient, a key step toward accessing about $4.6 billion in international debt relief. The final amount is still being assessed.

Somalia has been wracked by civil war since 1991, and the cash-starved, U.N.-backed government in Mogadishu is desperate to claw in the revenue it needs to pay staff and provide services like security.

The military, which is supposed to fight al-Qaeda linked insurgents, is in tatters and a combination of corruption and cash shortages mean soldiers rarely receive their $100 per month paycheques.

“People ask for security services prior to paying tax. But the government cannot deliver the required services to the public unless tax is collected,” Nur confided to Reuters in a restaurant, glancing over his shoulder. “It is like the egg and chicken puzzle.”

Some progress was made last year: tax agreements have been reached with airlines and telecoms companies, and an income tax exemption for parliamentarians has been reversed.

“These are important measures and show the strong commitment of the authorities to reform,” said Mohamad Elhage, who leads the International Momentary Fund’s Somalia work.

Debt forgiveness would give the government access to credit that could be used to fund services, binding Somalia’s often quarrelling federal states closer together.

It could also wean the government off cash from donors such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which often have diverging agendas that can destabilise Somalia’s fragile politics.

“Increasing our revenue is a very important benchmark for the road map to clear the (debt) arrears,” said Beileh. “Our objective to cover our expenses is very important.”

Achieving that will depend, in part, on men like Nur.
TAX COLLECTION ON THE FRONTLINE

Somalia’s al Shabaab rebels are known for their ruthless efficiency at collecting tax and spy networks that track profits. Businessmen misstating their profits are likely to get a terse reminder to pay the difference or face a bullet; tax collectors who cheat the movement could be executed, a former al Shabaab enforcer told Reuters.

Al Shabaab were not available for comment.

As an agent of the U.N.-backed government, Nur cannot dole out amputations or executions. If a businessman refuses to pay up he can theoretically be arrested, if he has no powerful friends to protect him. But often, they will simply prevaricate, said Nur.

That’s what many businessmen are doing in the face of Somalia’s new tax. Mogadishu port has not unloaded a commercial vessel for nine days, port authorities told Reuters on Wednesday, as businessmen refuse to pay the new levy.

Trader Aden Abdullahi complained that he was already paying for port services and customs, and paying the Islamic tax of zakat to the poor. He can’t afford another five percent, he said.

“We see this idea as intentionally or unintentionally direct economic war on Mogadishu traders,” he said, shaking his head in disapproval in his wholesale grocery shop.

“The other problem is that the rebels tax us and I am sure they will also raise tax if the government raises tax.”

Some Somalis also say they are reluctant to pay up to an administration that many consider corrupt and inefficient. Almost all of Somalia’s budget goes on paying its politicians and civil servants; ordinary citizens see little being spent on improving public health, education or infrastructure in their bullet-scarred city.

“We pay various taxes by force. There is no beneficial return from the government. We do not even have roads and I have been paying these taxes at gunpoint for the last ten years,” 40-year-old minibus driver Hashi Abdulle said, referring to money extorted at government-controlled roadblocks.

But Minister Beileh says that criticism is outdated and citizens are confusing private extortion with public taxes. The government is putting reforms in place, he said, like trying to work out how to issue individual tax numbers and empowering the ministry of finance to take the lead on tax collection.

“People are used to dealing with … individuals, individual offices, individual soldiers, illegal tax collectors who did not belong to government,” he said.

“Changing that culture is also becoming a challenge … We are trying to close all the loopholes.”

(Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld; writing by Katharine Houreld; editing by Giles Elgood)

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Briefing Room

Somalia Foreign Minister Wants IGAD Open Borders After The Government Rejected

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Looks like Somali Foreign Minister didn’t get the memo when he was talking to Africa 24 TV.

Minister Ahmed Awad agrees with IGAD Free Movement Proposal “We’re comfortable (with the open border) in fact we encourage it, we welcome the region’s borders to be open, the economy of the countries in the region to be integrated. Somalis & Somalia will benefit very much from such open border” Foreign Minister Awad said, while last Monday Somalia said it would not sign a deal with IGAD member countries that will allow free movement of citizens.

 

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