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Revenue standoff: Young Turks take on Uhuru, Raila

By Standard Team | August 14th 2020 at 09:00:00 GMT +0300

From Left: Ledama Ole Kina (Narok), Stewarts Madzayo (Kilifi), Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi), Kindiki Kithure (Tharaka Nithi) and Enock Wambua (Kitui) at a past Senate sitting on August 4, 2020. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

A crop of young senators is keeping President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga on their toes and has so far frustrated their efforts to push through a revenue sharing formula.

The group, composed of first timers and a few veterans, have defied their party bosses who are demanding total loyalty and have grown increasingly intolerant to dissent, cracking the whip more than once.

Curiously, this new breed appear to have been emboldened by the third generation formula and are coalescing around ‘One Kenya’ and not to their party stand.

The group, drawn from various political parties from Coast, North Eastern, Eastern, Rift Valley, Nyamira and Western, has defied calls by allies of Uhuru and Raila push for ‘one man, one shilling, one vote’, claiming that is just a fallacy and is not real.

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Leading the pack is senators Johnston Sakaja, who has complained of being harassed and intimidated by people he believes are out to ‘coerce’ him to change his stand on the Senate Finance report on the formula.

Also in the group are senators Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni), Kithure Kindiki (Tharaka/Nithi), Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo/Marakwet), Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo), Ledama ole Kina (Narok), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), Agnes Zani (nominated), Mithika Linturi (Meru) and Farhiya Ali (nominated).

They have packaged their message to appear as if there are two groups of senators, those for and against Kenya, insisting that no county should lose funds unless the government increases allocation to over Sh350 billion.

“We shall shoot down the discriminative formula meant to demean some parts of our nation and replace it with a fair approach to sharing of nationally-raised revenue,” said Kindiki.

“We support our 28 counties gaining more funds, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the other 19. Threats of party disciplinary action or even expulsion from political parties won’t change our resolve whatsoever,” he added.

Yesterday, some of the senators protested and claimed they have been harassed by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) especially after they rallied behind Sakaja’s amendments to retain the status quo.

Linturi yesterday said he was shocked after he was slapped with a Sh32 million tax bill just hours after he garnered support of 25 senators against the Uhuru-Raila faction’s 20, to further amend the Sakaja proposal.

“A number of senators who voted in support of Linturi’s amendment to the new formula report woke up to frozen bank accounts and fictitious tax demands from KRA. Shameful of the so-called system. The resolve is firmer. Kenya must win this war against impunity,” a tweet by Cheruiyot read.

However, a KRA official challenged politicians claiming their accounts had been frozen to produce proof.

The official, who can not be named as she is not authorised to speak to the press said: “For them to make such allegations, do they have evidence?”

But Linturi countered: “I am really frustrated as a taxpayer. Is this not a coincidence that even though I have not defaulted in my tax obligation and paid Sh8.1 million last month, it’s barely a month and now my accounts have been frozen.”

The senator added: “This is blackmail. I should not compromise my legislative independence because of a personal issue. This is a contractual matter with the taxman. I paid Sh3 million in June. I have never defaulted. I do business with government and it has not paid because of Covid-19. Why target me?”

The claims of tax demand and freezing of bank accounts elicited mixed reactions among senators, who singled out Deputy Chief of Staff Njee Muturi as the one whipping those perceived to be defiant.

However, efforts to get a response from Muturi were unsuccessful as calls and messages to his mobile phone went unanswered.

The senators complained of receiving late night calls where they were threatened with files with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and Directorate of Criminal Investigations being revived.

They disclosed that Anwar Loititip, Philip Mpayeei, Murkomen, Linturi, Cleophas Malala and Ali had been targeted, so that they could shift their allegiance.

“Seven senators are walking on land mines. When Sakaja was arrested, people thought it was a joke. He has lost business. He was trailed by unknown people and now they are trailing Malala, who was even asked by a senior House official to stay away on Tuesday and not vote, but in defiance he appeared,” disclosed a senator.

Another senator said: “They are trailing both losers and a few gainers who are in solidarity with the affected counties. We know the pressure they are loading on people. One senator told us he walked into a room and found Sh7 million on the table to have him change his mind.”

The Gazette notice for a special sitting next Monday was not out despite affirmation by Speaker Ken Lusaka after Kilonzo Jnr got signatures from 17 senators, two more than the required 15 as per the Standing Orders to dispose of the matter.

The young senators have been plotting ahead of the Uhuru-Ruto team.

As witnessed in the last vote, they garnered 25 against 22 in support of an adjournment motion by Murkomen, which caught Senator James Orengo and team unawares after they had lobbied and managed to get some of the ‘team Kenya’ members like Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri.

Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata had threatened that if the State loses, Uhuru will reconsider his commitment to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), but this too didn’t make an impact.

Those targeted are among the strongest proponents of the BBI spearheaded by Uhuru and Raila that seek to increase allocation to counties by at least 35 per cent.

Sakaja’s proposal sought to cushion the 19 counties set to lose Sh20 billion and ensure they receive the allocation as was the case in the last financial year, and cap Sh316.5 billion as the baseline.

Senator Samuel Poghisio yesterday refuted claims that Uhuru and Raila have taken a position on the revenue standoff and that their side has given up. He also denied knowledge of any threats.

Nyandarua Senator Mwangi Githiomi said he stands with the principle of one man, one vote, one shilling.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said it was retrogressive for State agents to resort to intimidation, and blackmail leaders with divergent views.

However, Nominated MP Isaac Mwaura said he was not aware of any intimidation.

[Report by Roselyne Obala, Moses Nyamori and Cyrus Ombati]

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