Catholic bishops have urged President William Ruto to repeal the controversial Finance Act, 2023 to lessen the tax burden on Kenyans.
The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) argued the taxes are unsustainable, especially in the current tough economic environment.
The clerics said that in its current form, the Finance Act will make life unbearable for Kenyans who are already facing challenging times.
Speaking in Karen, Nairobi, on Thursday, July 19, 2023, the bishops raised their concerns about the heavy financial load Kenyans are bearing due to the high cost of living.
Nyeri Archbishop Anthony Muheria noted that most Kenyans are unable to afford their basic needs. He said the recently enacted Finance Act has worsened things for Kenyans, deepening the economic distress they have been facing, particularly those in the low-income bracket.
“We do realise that part of the disappointment and the disillusionment of Kenyans leading to the grave agitation and anger is the severe economic distress,” said Bishop Muheria.
The bishops want the President to listen to the cries of Kenyans and initiate a process that takes into account the current economic situation even as he seeks to achieve the Kenya Kwanza goals.
Meanwhile, the bishops want the government to obey court orders - indirectly referring to the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority’s disregard of a court order that stayed the implementation of Value-Added Tax (VAT) on fuel.
The agency revised the VAT from eight to 16 per cent despite a High Court order that temporarily stopped the implementation of the Finance Act.
“Many Kenyans feel unheard and overlooked by the government. We hear every day different discordant and often conflicting messages from government officials,” said Bishop John Oballa, of the Ngong Diocese.
The bishops also expressed disappointment over the ‘unbecoming’ statements by some government officials, which they said are causing confusion and division among the people.
“To restore trust and address the concerns of the people, it is imperative that the government actively listens to the plight of Kenyans, provide clear and honest explanations for unfulfilled promises, and prioritise policies that alleviate the socio-economic problems they are facing,” said Bishop Oballa.
At the same time, the bishops condemned police brutality against protesters during the demonstrations being spearheaded by the opposition in an attempt to force the government to lower the cost of living.
While acknowledging that goons take advantage of protests to commit crimes, the bishops said the police should focus on dealing with such individuals to ensure demonstrations are conducted in accordance with the law.
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They condemned acts of violence and abuse of power by the police, noting that such behaviour undermines the fundamental principles of human rights, justice, and the rule of law.
“The police cannot take advantage of the protests to brutalise innocent Kenyans. Such acts are unacceptable and must not be tolerated under any circumstance,” said archbishop Muheria.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KNCHR) reported that at least 12 people were killed during last week’s demonstrations, a majority of them dying from gunshot wounds.