Kenya: Nasa Leaders Reject VAT Stand, Supporters Say Odinga a Traitor

Photo: Capital FM
National Super Alliance after the three-hour meeting at Orange House in Nairobi, chaired by Raila Odinga.
18 September 2018

The decision by the National Super Alliance (Nasa) to back President Uhuru Kenyatta's proposals on the fuel tax has angered some of its own lieutenants.

On Tuesday evening, ODM leader Raila Odinga whipped his MPs and those allied to Nasa to issue a statement backing the eight per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on petroleum products for a year.

'STAND WITH KENYANS'

Following the coalition's declaration of its position, Nasa principal Moses Wetang'ula said via Twitter "there has been no agreed coalition position on the VAT saga".

"Our opposition to imposition of a further tax load remains intact. The ODM leader's statement is personal and does not in anyway represent Nasa. NASA MPs are advised to play their opposition role," wrote the Bungoma Senator and Ford Kenya party leader.

Rongo MP Paul Abuor and his Uriri counterpart Mark Nyamita also took to social media to say they will reject the move by the opposition to support the Bill.

The two said they have chosen to stand with Kenyans and their consciences in making their decisions.

"I stand with my employers, the people of the great constituency of Rongo. The President's memo must fail. No VAT on fuel 0% [sic]," Mr Abuor posted on Facebook.

'REJECT THE MEMO'

Mr Nyamita, in a popular WhatsApp group called 'The Uriri We Want', asked God to help him as he will not accept the change that was proposed by Mr Kenyatta.

"Great people, on this debate on VAT, allow me to stand with my conscience - I WILL VOTE TO REJECT THE MEMO.... so help me God! [sic]," Mr Nyamita posted.

Mr Odinga's own son, Raila Junior, called on Kibra MP Kenneth Okoth to ignore the Nasa statement and stand with Kenyans.

"Unfortunately as a Kenyan citizen, I am unconvinced by the statement put out by Nasa on the VAT on Fuel. None of the conditions they've put up are measurable and even if they were, they are nowhere near closing the deficit on the debt. I call for my MP @okothkenneth to reject," he tweeted.

The leaders' reactions sparked debate on who advised Mr Odinga to whip his legislators to accept the offer to side with Mr Kenyatta.

On Tuesday, the debate on the fuel levy failed to kick off after Speaker Justin Muturi turned down attempts by a section of MPs to have President Uhuru Kenyatta's memorandum on the VAT as well as the Supplementary Appropriations Bill debated during the special sitting.

The Speaker insisted that the order of business clearly states that the president's reservations on Finance Bill, 2018 and the report of the Budget and Appropriations Committee on the supplementary estimates for the 2018/19 financial year were set for Tuesday and Thursday.

'NASA BETRAYAL'

Earlier on Tuesday, Nasa noted the over borrowing of commercial loans and the serious crackdown on corruption as its conditions for supporting the VAT proposal.

The coalition wants all public expenditure to be economical and for the government to be sensitive about the harsh financial times many Kenyans are facing.

"We don't want to hear of people traveling first class on public funds because of medical conditions," Minority whip Junet Mohamed said in a statement.

Nasa supporters in Migori County have faulted its leadership for endorsing the president's proposals for the reduction of the fuel VAT to eight per cent.

Residents who spoke to the Nation on Tuesday said the coalition has betrayed them.

"I feel Raila Odinga and his Nasa brigade have betrayed us. How can they support a move that is meant to oppress us? Is this why we voted for them?" said Mr Bramuel Omondi.

Some criticised the famous handshake between Mr Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta.

"If the handshake was meant to make Nasa the government's lapdog, it is not helpful to us at all. We have known Raila as a man who stands with the people but of late he is not firm on issues that affect wananchi. He simply supports the government even when it is not right," said Mr Hesbon Onyango, a barber in Migori town.

Nyabasi East MCA Mwita Motangi (Ford Kenya) termed Nasa's move "too unfortunate".

"They should have increased VAT for luxury products. Loyalty to the president has cost the poor people of Kenya. As much as Nasa's numbers were not high, they should have rejected the bill. They have failed to effectively play their role as the opposition," said Mr Motangi.

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