Whichever way one looks at it, President Uhuru Kenyatta could not have been right telling Kongowea market traders not to pay taxes to the Mombasa county government.
First, the President does not have any legal authority to issue edicts as he purported to do. Our constitution does not afford Mr Kenyatta any powers to direct the police on any operational matters as he did on the subject of taxes in Mombasa. The import of it all is that with such fiats, he sets a bad precedent in appearing to encourage citizens to break the law.
Besides, the President’s stand that the traders should not pay taxes because the county government has failed to provide the necessary services is faulty.
It raises the question as to whether taxpayers could not say the same of the national government. There is evidence of shoddy or non-delivery of services by both the national and county governments across the country.
For starters, security of citizens, which is the primary duty of any government, is lacking in many parts of the country, costing tens of lives and property every day.
Nurses have been on strike for more than four months now, paralysing services in public hospitals.
Kenyan roads are choking with congestion, costing the economy billions of shillings every year. Garbage collection in cities and urban centres is virtually non-existent. Public schools are crowded and poorly built, subjecting pupils to harsh weather elements.
These are just a few examples of the credible reasons that Kenyan citizens could cite against paying taxes. Before the President sees the speck in Mombasa County’s eye, he should have seen the log in his own. The political differences between Mr Kenyatta and Mombasa governor Hassan Joho are a matter of public record.
It would, however, be irresponsible to escalate them to the level advocated by the President. The Kongowea Market traders are wise not to have heeded the call as they would have suffered the legal consequences of such action.
It is noteworthy that Nairobi governor Mike Sonko, a close ally of the President, issued a similar call to Nairobi traders. Mr Sonko’s declaration was even more bizarre, considering that he was addressing traders who are supposed to provide a key source of the county government revenue. Such populist declarations amount to shooting oneself in the foot, and must be avoided by all means.