By Ohenenana Kofinipa
Kenyans across the globe – from Alaska to Down Under – are clapping for President Uhuru Kenyatta for having given them their hearts’ desire.
“We have all along argued that there is no justification for the discrimination, thank you Mr. President,” enthused one of them on facebook.
For decades Kenyans resident in countries who drive on the right have been barred from coming home with cars duty free; a privilege their counterparts in left-hand driving countries enjoy.
Now by President Kenyatta’s directive Kenyans in right-hand drive countries are free to buy vehicles from left-hand drive countries and ship them to Kenya duty free. And social media is awash with their gratitude.
While At a meeting with Kenyans in Washington DC last month President Kenyatta ordered the cabinet secretaries in charge of Transport, Finance and Trade — who were present — to scrap duty for citizens who would sell their left-hand-drive vehicles and buy right-hand-drive cars to comply with the law.
“For years we have asked parliamentarians to correct the anomaly but since there was no kickback for them, they did nothing. This is welcome”, tweeted Anita Kagendo of Orange County in California.
Some who emailed newspapers in Nairobi wondered why it took so long to “listen to the voice of the Diaspora”, and advocated equal treatment for Kenyans no matter where they resided in the world “This was a no-brainer, but consecutive administrations made it look like rocket science”, another said in an e-mail.
Acknowledging how long the battle for duty free vehicle for all Kenyans returning home from the Diaspora, President Kenyatta said he had no intention of prolonging the debate on the issue.
“I have never issued a directive while outside Kenya but today I will. Those who live in countries where people drive on the wrong side of the road should be allowed to sell that car that drives on the wrong side of the road, buy a vehicle that drives on the right side of the road, and be able to bring that car into Kenya duty-free,” he said to a thunderous applause.
For decades Kenyans living in the countries where vehicular traffic keeps to the right side of the road have been petitioning the government to relax the rule on importation to no avail.
The Kenya Revenue Authority Act states that a person changing residence from a place outside Kenya to a place within Kenya where that person has been residing outside Kenya for a period of at least two years may import one exempt motor vehicle — excluding buses and minibuses of seating capacity of more than 13 passengers and load carrying capacity exceeding two tons.
If the directive is implemented, the beneficiaries will be exempt from paying Import duty at 25 per cent, Excise duty at 20 per cent and VAT at 16 per cent, which are otherwise payable cumulatively and in that order when they ship their car home. Kenya is one of the countries with the highest taxes on imported motor vehicles in the world