President Uhuru Kenyatta today opened a new battle front with Mombasa Governor, Ali Hassan Joho, by telling traders at the County's largest open air market not to pay taxes.
Kongowea market, which was renovated by the national government at a cost of Sh320 million, is one of the devolved unit’s key revenue earners.
Addressing traders at the market Monday, President Kenyatta - who was flanked by his deputy William Ruto and Nyali MP Mohamed Ali - said there was no need for the traders to pay levies to the county.
“This market was built by money from the national government. It was built for the traders and not for an individual. We will investigate and see if it’s not being used well,” the President said.
Mr Kenyatta, who is on a three-day tour of the coast that began Sunday, said the market was meant to serve traders and not the county government.
“Do not pay until you get services. I am asking police officers here not to be used to harass and arrest the traders who will not pay the taxes,” he added.
He also directed that those found to be harassing traders should be arrested.
“County askaris should leave you alone. This market was built through funds from the national government,” he said, adding that the National Youth Service (NYS) will be deployed starting next week to clean the market.
Kongowea is the main source of fresh produce in the area, hosting sellers of tomatoes, cereals, fruits, second-hand clothes, shoes, bags, miraa, electronics and other merchandise from as far as Tanzania.
Previously, there was tension over delays that blocked the traders from occupying the refurbished market as the county government vetted the beneficiaries.
The traders were also required to pay to use the stalls.
The comments from Mr Kenyatta will likely increase tension with Mr Joho, coming just days after the High Court ordered the State to stop harassing the governor over his academic papers.
Mr Joho has also clashed with the President over development projects at the coast, accusing the national government of riding on county programmes to gain popularity.