By Ayenat Mersie
NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga asked his supporters on Tuesday to boycott a raft of new taxes on items including fuel and housing, stoking potential confrontation with the government of his rival President William Ruto.
The levies were contained in a finance bill that was signed into law by Ruto on Monday.
“Through civil disobedience, we will deny Ruto the taxes he thinks he can extort from us by force,” Odinga told thousands of cheering and dancing supporters at a rally in the capital Nairobi.
Under the new revenue measures, the fuel tax will double to 16% and workers will also face a 1.5% housing levy that will be matched by employers.
The 78-year-old Odinga, who lost the election to Ruto last year, repeatedly asked his followers to engage in acts of civil disobedience against a government he accuses of raising the cost of living and consolidating power.
Early this year, he led a series of anti-government protests which often turned violent and the renewed rallying of his supporters to defy government measures could rekindle confrontation with the authorities.
“Let us embrace tax boycotts, let us deny Ruto the fuel tax by limiting the fuel consumption,” Odinga told his supporters.
Ruto’s government argues the higher taxes are necessary to stabilise government finances, which have been strained by growing debt repayments and lower than expected growth in tax collection.
Odinga called the contentious bill Ruto signed a betrayal and its supporters traitors.
“We must punish the traitors and we must cause a repeal of the finance act,” Odinga said, urging his followers to “name, shame and isolate” the lawmakers who voted for the bill.
(Reporting by Ayenat Mersie; Editing by Elias Biryabarema and Ed Osmond)
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