Raila now calls on employers to stop remitting the housing tax

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga (left) and Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Azimio leader Raila Odinga has asked employers to stop remitting money towards the Housing Levy following a decision by the High Court that the tax was unconstitutional.

He was speaking Wednesday during the coalition’s parliamentary group meeting in Nairobi.

"Even though they say it's a stay order, my view is that the matter still remains unconstitutional and therefore I would urge all employers to immediately stop paying anything,” said Raila.

In their ruling on Tuesday, a three-judge bench dealt a blow to President William Ruto's housing programme by declaring the Housing Levy unconstitutional due to its discriminatory nature and creation of unequal principles.

But the High Court also granted stay orders on the implementation of the judgement, meaning Kenyans will continue paying the levy for a month.

Yesterday's meeting brought together coalition MPs, senators and governors as well as Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and former Agriculture CS Peter Munya.

The politicians met behind closed doors for three hours to discuss the National Dialogue Committee's report, aiming to take a common position.

The leader regretted that the committee failed to reach an agreement on addressing the pressing cost of living issue. Despite three months of concerted efforts and persistent negotiations, they said, the committee could not find consensus on this critical issue.

Complex discussion

While the report marks a beginning, it remains imperfect and unfinished," Raila said, emphasising the inherent complexities faced during the discussions.

He revealed that the coalition will be exploring other avenues, including consultations with the public, to ensure that the cost-of-living issue is addressed.

The opposition leader also hinted at a possible resumption of demonstrations; an avenue that has been favoured by Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua.

Ms Karua is on record saying that the coalition is ready to explore civil action if the government fails to solve the problem of the rising cost of living.

“We will seek other ways to pressure the government to listen to the cries of the people and bring down the cost of living. We have the rights to call up the people to take steps that we deem necessary to force the government to lower the cost of living," said Raila.

Raila accused the government side of taking a hard stance during the talks, saying that all deliberations that led to the proposed reduction of the road maintenance and the anti-adulteration levy by Sh5 and Sh3 per litre, respectively, were suggestions from the Azimio side.

"The Kenyan populace grapples with an unbearable cost of living, amplified by the impending challenges of increased school fees and numerous crises in the education sector," Raila stated, highlighting the burden that parents will bear as schools reopen next year.

He said that Azimio remains resolute in its commitment to "constructive engagement and positive energies for the betterment of Kenya".

Raila said that while the submitted document includes major reforms, the failure to address the cost-of-living issue represents a major setback in ensuring a more equitable and sustainable future for Kenyans.

“We also support the document with the proviso that certain aspects must be approved by the people by way of referendum to create the office of the leader of opposition or to formalise the office of the prime cabinet secretary. The people of Kenya have to have their say by way of a referendum,” he said.

Raila reiterated the need for decisive actions, urging a national consensus on Kenya's governance system for the country to move forward.

“We have to agree whether we want a parliamentary, presidential or a hybrid system,” said Raila. 

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