Deputy President William Ruto and MPs allied to him now want goods worth billions of shillings impounded at the Port of Mombasa released.
Importers and Small Traders Association of Kenya (ISTA) said more than 600 containers were being held in the port and Kenya Ports Authority’s Inland Depot in Nairobi.
The tax agency wants about Sh1.8 billion from the containers after it raised from Sh1.2 million to Sh3 million per container by end of last year.
But Dr Ruto and the MPs argue that the crackdown by a multi-agency team on illicit goods and tax cheats had crippled small-scale traders and now action must be taken to salvage them.
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“There is no way Kenya can forge ahead if the youths are left behind. There are many youths engaged in different forms of businesses, from hawking to boda boda. As government, we have said the goods should be released and traders allowed to do their business,” he said.
The DP spoke on Sunday at Dagoretti market after attending a Sunday service at AIPCA church Riruta Satellite. He had also spoken of the same issue at PCEA Nairobi West church.
Ruto was responding to requests by MPs Charles Njagua (Starehe), John Kiarie (Dagoretti South) and Simon Mbugua (EALA), who had lamented that the crackdown had caused suffering to small traders.
“Most shops along Kirinyaga road and Gikomba have been closed since traders have run out of stock. Most of these are small traders who depend on the supply that is now held at the port,” Mbugua said.
Njagua said some traders were even contemplating suicide as their goods were stuck at the port for more than seven months, yet they took loans to import the merchandise.