Transport services in the border town of Moyale were paralysed on Monday as the motorists’ association protested fuel price increases that are making life “unbearable”.
At least 50 Nairobi-bound buses halted operations due to the recent jump in fuel prices.
The move piled on the misery of the region’s residents, who are grappling with economic hardships due to the deteriorating Ethiopia-Kenya cross-border trade.
Former Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Moyale charter chairman Ali Muumin said more than 600 traders in Moyale, Wajir and Mandera who ply the Moyale-Nairobi route daily have been hit hard.
“Any slightest hike in the fuel prices translates into so many things, more so for residents of Northern Kenya who overly rely on other parts of Kenya for foodstuffs and other domestic products. We call for the government’s urgent intervention,” Mr Muumin said.
He expressed fears the rise in fuel prices would make life unaffordable for the region’s residents, raising the cost of goods that are largely transported from Nairobi or central Kenya.
It was also feared that massive job losses and starvation were imminent in the region if the government failed to intervene.
Fuel prices are now at record highs in Moyale, with one litre of petrol trading for Sh189, diesel Sh160 and kerosene Sh140.
Mr Muumin said government officials were out of touch with reality as ordinary Kenyans were unable to "breathe due to the continued increase in cost of living”.
The business community called on the government to adopt “urgent and extraordinary” measures that could cushion the poor against the uncontrolled rise in fuel prices.
Moyale business community chairperson Katelo Adan also said traders were unhappy with high fuel charges.
Mzee Adan explained that the authorities in Ethiopia, where locals used to buy cheaper fuel, had barred Kenyan motorists from refueling their vehicles there.
In 2021, fuel prices in Ethiopia were nearly the same as those in Kenya, making the majority of motorists and residents cross the border to buy it.
However, new regulations in Ethiopia have changed that.
Mzee Adan also appealed to the government to cut the fuel duty to cushion ordinary Kenyans from the high cost of living.
“I call on the government to cut the fuel duty or institute emergency measures to bring the price of fuel down. We need a buffer against current inflation. We need to breathe. We are suffering,” Mzee Adan lamented.
The paralysis in the transport sector caused by high fuel prices had also affected the Marsabit town business community, which relies on the Moyale association buses to travel to Nairobi.
Many locals were stranded due to lack of transport services.