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Over taxation has led to revolts and revolutions throughout history

Kakamega residents led by a section of Kakamega MCAs protest against Finance Bill 2024 in Kakamega town on June 20, 2024. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Taxes are of three types and are always emotive especially when rulers become insensitive. These are cash, material/property, and forced labour/slavery, which is blood taxation.

When taxes become excessive, people revolt and this leads to new socio-political dispensations.

In 1215, the English nobility rose against King John who then issued the Magna Carta on the Rights of Englishmen which roughly six centuries later in 1760s became the basis of colonial rebellion in North America chanting, "no taxation without representation".

Overtaxation to raise money for State expenses produced the French Revolution with its Rights of Man arguments.

Slaves in Haiti, suffering extreme type of blood taxation, overthrew their masters.

Blood taxation was common in the colonial states where the chiefs and nyapara pleased their masters by overworking the ‘natives’.

Reacting to the three types of overtaxation, anti-colonial revolts ended the colonial order. Mainly through the Mau Mau War, Kenyans revolted and expected their lot to improve in the post-colonial times; the current tax uprising shows they were disappointed.

In the postcolonial times, rulers became black instead of white and the reprieve from oppressive taxation was seemingly limited to the period of transition.

Independence seemed to be freedom for the nyapara and chiefs to lord it over ‘freedom fighters’, languishing in new poverty.

They mocked the ‘freedom fighters’ by instituting new devastating taxes in the form of magendo alias corruption which fell mostly on the poor. The chiefs demanded ‘harambee’ before offering required services, and confiscated ‘chicken’ in lieu of failure to contribute to ‘maendeleo’,

Two mass rebellions capture imagination. The first was 1997, as a result of disillusionment over the failure to advance constitutional reforms following the 1992 elections.

The public appeared to lose trust in, and to ignore, ‘elected’ leaders whether in Parliament or the executive.

It instead to bestowed power on such unelected mobilisers as Kivutha Kibwana, Willy Mutunga, Timothy Njoya, and Davinder Lamba who appeared like power intruders.

When these political intruders called for rallies to demand particular reforms, people turned up in large numbers.

This reality worried the ‘elected’ officials so much that President Daniel arap Moi managed to convince leaders of Opposition parties in Parliament to gang up with Kanu to create the IPPG compromise.

Its purpose was to derail a ‘revolution’ by removing some powers of chiefs to confiscate chicken and making promises of post-election reforms.

Having sidelined the intruders to their preserve, members of the political class returned to the game of competing for offices and although Charity Ngilu was the most exciting presidential candidate, Moi outwitted his opponents to retain his presidential job.

The second mass rebellion is the 2024 youth-engineered uprising. The ‘Hustler Grandees’ ignored the warnings of mass unhappiness and enjoyed high life in the midst of increasing poverty for millions of Kenyans.

They instead sought foreign acclaim while mass desperation rose due to corruption, which President Uhuru Kenyatta once said had reached Sh2 billion per day, accompanied by what President Ruto admitted was high level incompetence.

As corruption and incompetence ensured the collapse of essential education and health services, the ‘grandees’ imposed strange taxes on essentials like bread to help, one of them claimed, reduce diabetes.

The insult to the Kenyan public was glaring. Among the insulted were cyber savvy well exposed youths whose questioning minds try to make sense of the Hustler Grandees’ insult to intelligence by glorifying ignorance and seemingly surrendering sovereignty and related national interests to external entities.

They have no fear, an essential element in governance, are not impressed by police display of raw power, and out-think the minsters and what they label M-Pigs.

As global media highlight Kenya’s tax crisis, Haitians are reportedly bemused and await the American funded Kenyan police officers.

Irresponsible taxation in Kenya undercuts productivity, increases joblessness, and undermines Ruto’s desired world acclaim.

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