Eldoret and other towns in Uasin Gishu County have been hit by a severe fuel shortage, with petrol stations witnessing long queues of motorists since Sunday evening.
The shortage also hit neighbouring Baringo, Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet, Bungoma and Turkana counties. Most fuel stations were deserted because of the shortage, which started last week.
The situation has paralysed transport in the affected counties, with most public service vehicles grounded.
In Eldoret, only a few Shell outlets were still supplying fuel, but only the V Power brand, which was retailing for Sh152 a litre, compared with Sh135 for a litre of unleaded super petrol, which most motorists use.
Desperate motorists and boda boda operators lined up overnight at Shell stations for a second day in a row to refuel their vehicles.
Those whose vehicles had stalled along the way came to the station with portable fuel containers but they too had to queue for fuel.
Mr Joseph Kemei, a motorist who was travelling to Kisumu, had to spend the night on the road.
"I travelled about 40km from Nyaru in Elgeyo Marakwet County for fuel in Eldoret but I ran out of it at 5am. I have been on the road since then and I found a Good Samaritan, who towed my vehicle to a Shell station, only to be informed that only V Power is available," he said at the station in Eldoret.
He said he had to abandon his journey to Kisumu because of the fuel crisis.
“I have parked my vehicle at the station until the day I get fuel. I will use a matatu to travel back home,” he said.
On Monday, PSVs, including boda bodas, hiked their fares due to the shortage.
Some vehicles that ran out of fuel were parked at petrol stations.
V Power cost
Motorists lamented that the V Power fuel was expensive but they did not have any other option.
"All petrol stations are now empty and it is now a matter of time before the available V Power fuel is exhausted. We do not know what is happening and the pipeline depot is within Eldoret," lamented Mr David Maina, a boda boda operator.
He and other operators had to push their motorcycles for kilometres after they ran out of fuel.
"It is crazy and operations are grinding to a halt due to lack of fuel. People now fear travelling because they may run out of fuel on the way and get stranded," he said.
Mr Stephen Sawe, a manager at an Eldoret fuel station, said the crisis started on Friday when they visited the Kenya Pipeline depot and were told there was no fuel.
“It is a crisis and we do not know when it will end because we have been told there is no fuel at the depot. Our station ran out of fuel on Thursday and we closed it on Saturday,” he said.
Long queues in Nandi County
It was the same situation in neighbouring Nandi County, where long queues of vehicles and motorcycles at petrol stations were seen on the second day.
Travellers complained that they had spent many hours at various petrol stations after their vehicles ran out of fuel.
Matatu driver Joseph Rotich protested that operators were losing money waiting for fuel.
Fuel stations claimed they had been receiving low supply from dealers for the past one week.
In Baringo, the shortage hit major towns on Sunday, with motorists queueing at petrol stations for hours.
Among the most affected were Kabarnet, Eldama Ravine, Mogotio, Kabartonjo, Chemolingot and Marigat.
Mr Boniface Kiptum, a matatu operator plying the Kabarnet-Eldoret route, said he had not operated his vehicle since Sunday.
"I normally make three to four trips a good day but due to the fuel shortage, I have not managed to make even one. Dozens of my counterparts are still queuing at petrol stations, not knowing when we will get fuel," Mr Kiptum said.
In Bungoma County, Bungoma, Webuye, Kimilili, Chwele, Kapsokwony and several market centres on the Webuye-Kanduyi highway reported fuel shortages.
On Monday, none of the 17 fuel stations in Bungoma town had fuel and only one of the six stations in Webuye had fuel.
Kimilili, Misikhu, Lugulu and Kamukuywa markets had insufficient fuel, prompting motorists and boda boda riders to travel as far away as Webuye to buy the product at a Total station.
Mr Daniel Sakwa, a dealer at Jovena Petrol Station in Webuye, which was selling a litre of petrol for Sh142, said the shortage prompted matatus to hike fares.
"These matatus have taken advantage of this shortage to make more money. For instance, a distance that costs Sh50e has been hiked to Sh100," he said.
Mr Sakwa said that he was told there was insufficient supply from the Kenya Pipeline Company depot in Eldoret.
A majority of dealers in Webuye and Bungoma get the product from Eldoret.
In Turkana, some fuel stations in Lodwar had stopped selling the commodity due to unreliable supply and losses related to recommended prices.
There was no uniform fuel price as some stations were selling it for Sh200 per litre.
In Kakuma, Turkana West sub-county, boda boda operators took to the streets to protest unrealistic fuel prices after attendants at Lucky fuel station began selling petrol for Sh250 per litre.
Dr Whitney Ndungu, an investor in Turkana, said locals were engaging in panic buying of fuel in Lodwar.
Residents were buying and storing fuel in jerricans in order to avoid long queues at the few fuel stations that still had stock, said Mr Johnston Odukhula.
"It looks like in Turkana, we are now queuing for fuel, in addition to our normal plight of queuing for water and relief food in villages that are facing severe drought," he said.
BY FRED KIBOR, FLORAH KOECH, BRIAN OJAMAA, SAMMY LUTTA and TOM MATOKE