Transport along the busy Migori-Isebania highway was paralysed Thursday as motorists staged demonstrations over increased fuel prices.
Operations along the busy highway came to a standstill, with armed police officers watching helplessly as irate motorists packed their vehicles on Migori Town Bridge over river Migori, the only access point in the town, and blocked other feeder roads, saying they had run out of fuel.
They also used boulders to block the highway connecting Kenya with Tanzania, while daring the police to shoot in the air and lob teargas canisters at them.
“We cannot operate in a country run with impunity. Our political leaders are letting the common mwananchi suffer despite tough economic times occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Mr Joel Owino, a matatu driver said.
On Wednesday, the government, through the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) increased the cost of petrol prices past the Sh130 per liter mark, the highest ever, raising the cost by Sh7.58 per liter.
In Nairobi, a liter of petrol will now retail at Ksh134.72 (US $1.22) from Ksh127.14 (US $1.16), while diesel’s cost spiked to Ksh115.60 (US $1.05) from Ksh107.66 (US $0.98) and kerosene’s price to Ksh110.82 (US $1.01) from Ksh97.85 (US $0.89).
In Migori town, a liter of petrol now retails at Ksh137.12 from Ksh128.30 while diesel retails at Ksh117 (US $1.06) from Ksh110.20 (US $1) and kerosene at Ksh113.00 (US $1.03) a litre from Ksh97.15 (US $0.88).
The protesting motorists said the government is only keen on inflating fuel prices, not on their welfare.
“Our leaders have abandoned us. The cost of living has been going up. We will not relent until fuel prices are taken down,” Mr Enock Odongo, another driver, said.
The demonstration kicked off after a truck transporting sand and cement stalled at the Migori bridge.
“We increased the cost of sand to Ksh10,000 (US $90.87) from Ksh8,000 (US $72.69) following the increase in fuel prices. Our customer has since declined to take the sand, leaving us stranded,” a driver explained.
When police officers asked the driver to move the lorry to ease traffic, he declined, insisting he had no fuel. In a show of support, other motorists packed their vehicles.
“We have doubled the prices on our routes owing to the fuel hike. The cheapest price - Ksh30 - has been increased to Ksh60, which customers have refused to part with. I came here to stand in solidarity with other Kenyans,” Mr Gerald Ouma, a bodaboda rider, said.
They expressed shock at the government’s silence on the matter since the fuel prices were increased, with some accusing politicians of failing to address the issue.
“We are tired of dying and getting maimed on the streets during demonstrations called by politicians, especially after elections. The same politicians have left us on our own. These demonstrations are for us. It shall be teargas and bullets until the prices are reversed,” George Omondi, a resident said.
The high cost of fuel has been attributed to high landing costs and has caused the prices of basic commodities in Migori and other towns to shoot up.
“This country is going down the drain in the full glare of our politicians who should be representing us. We cannot withstand such a catastrophe. Should this trend continue, we risk plunging the country into chaos,” Mercy Akinyi, a resident said.