Kenya’s executive locked in a row with judiciary over tax policies

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Kenya’s president, William Ruto, has openly expressed his intentions to defy court orders that impose restrictions on his flagship policies.

Ruto has accused some members of the judiciary of corruption, bias, and collaboration with the opposition to impede crucial government initiatives, particularly a housing fund tax and universal healthcare programs.

The tension between the two organs heightened in November 2023, when the Ruto-led administration suffered a major setback in the implementation of an affordable housing tax and universal healthcare initiatives. The court had ruled that the decision aimed at raising taxes to fund the construction of affordable homes was not only unconstitutional but also discriminatory.

In separate rulings, the court temporarily halted the deduction of a 1.5% housing levy from workers' gross monthly salaries and another deduction of 2.57 percent towards social healthcare insurance, The East African reported.

In a response, Ruto indicated his discontent with the court ruling, noting, “It is not possible that we respect the judiciary while a few individuals who are beneficiaries of corruption are using corrupt judicial officials to block our development projects.”

“We are a democracy. We respect, and we will protect, the independence of the judiciary. What we will not allow is judicial tyranny and judicial impunity,” Ruto said on January 16.

Despite being a notable beneficiary of the country's justice system when the Supreme Court upheld his contested victory in the 2022 presidential election, President William Ruto pledged to uphold the rule of law and respect the independence of the judiciary during his inauguration. However, recent clashes between Ruto and the judiciary have strained this commitment.

Meanwhile, the court hearing for the housing tax case is set to resume next week, while the petition challenging the healthcare tax is scheduled to return to court in February.

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