Siaya traders decry harassment by KRA officials

KRA offices along Mombasa Road, Nairobi. [File, Standard]

Siaya traders have protested against harassment by Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) customs officers at Usenge beach.

The traders said the vice has been going on for years, with many of them shifting to the neighbouring Busia county.

They said the officers frequently arrest and solicit money from them.

Benard Mulonde, who has been ferrying foodstuff from Uganda on Lake Victoria, says doing business has become difficult owing to increased taxation.

He said they have been paying at least Sh3,000 per boat-load of bananas.

“We are now forced to pay triple this amount without any consultation with stakeholders,” he said. Fish trader Celestine Okoth said the customs officials have been oppressing small-scale traders who import little stock that does not fall under-taxed commodities.

Port Victoria

She alleged that traders in the neighbouring Port Victoria beach are allowed to get in freely unlike those in Siaya.

“It’s unfair to charge us taxes of Sh1,600 from Sh150 for a 90kg bag of omena fish (fingerlings),” she said.

Usenge Beach Management Unit (BMU) officials said the harassment is hindering healthy business and promoting illegal trade along the borders.

BMU Vice Chairman John Ochieng said some cross-border traders now opt to use undesignated routes to avoid the officers.

“This sector has provided employment to so many people and with the harassment and high taxation, we are losing a lot of revenue and we’re soon going to close down the beach,” he said.

A customs officer who is not authorised to speak to the media said the rates are legal and must be paid by the traders.

He noted that the traders ought to comply with customs laws, regulations and procedures to facilitate trade and eliminate non-tariff barriers that affect cross-border trade.

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