The fate of Kenyan pastoralists from West Pokot County who have crossed the border to Uganda is not known after the government decided to impose tax on animals grazing in the country. Speaking to press at Alale this morning, Kacheliba Member of parliament Mark Lomunokol said the Uganda administration had decided to tax sh5,000 per animal annually.
Lomunokol said most of the animals from his constituency had crossed to the neighbouring country in search of pasture and water since drought had already hit the region.
He said last week they held talks with officials from Kwen and Chesukunya Sub County but the talks never yielded fruits.
“Tax charges that they have imposed are too high for our herders, putting into consideration the number of animals each pastoralist has,” he said.
He urged pastoralists from the region to remain calm, adding that there was no cause for alarm as the Kenyan government was still holding talks with the administration.
“We are still holding talks with the administration so that we can reach an agreement. Next week we shall hold another meeting to see how we shall save our Kenyan pastoralists,” he said.
Lomunokol had proposed during the meeting that the Uganda government comes up with livestock markets where pastoralists can sell their animals and in turn tax them.
“We cannot tax animals when they cross the border in search of pasture and water. They should instead come up with livestock markets where they can tax our farmers when they sell their animals,” he said.
He said his proposal was rejected by the administration that’s why they scheduled another meeting next week.
Lomunokol expressed fears that if the directive to tax animals is imposed it will disunite the communities living along the border and lead to resurfacing of cattle rustling.
He also pointed out that the directive may expose the residents to high levels of poverty since they will be forced to sell some of their animals at a throwaway price to pay the taxes.
“Prices of animals have drastically dropped since animals are not healthy, if we force our people to sell part of the animals to pay the tax we shall be exposing them to high levels of poverty and yet they depend on the animals to make a living,” said the MP.
A spot check at a village in Kasses revealed that there were scarce cattle and residents were depending on camel and goat milk for survival since they can withstand the harsh climate.
North Pokot Sub County is worst hit by drought and during dry spell residents’ move with their animals as far Uganda, Trans Nzoia and Turkana counties in search of water.