Discontent is rising in Kenya's public and private sectors over the record-setting price of fuel. With ongoing unrest in North Africa and border clashes in northern and southern Sudan, the price of fuel is reaching new heights in Kenya. The price has already topped 110 shillings per liter of petrol in Nairobi, or $1.30, a new record for the East African nation. The price has jumped from under 90 shillings just over a month ago, prompting concern for Kenya’s people and government alike.
With no end in sight, hundreds of protesters from Kenya’s civil society and working classes took to the streets of Nairobi Tuesday to demand relief from Kenyan lawmakers.
But in the halls of parliament, tensions were also running high, with the blame for high prices landing on the shoulders of Kenya’s Ministry of Energy. Led by MP Ababu Namwamba, parliamentarians grilled Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi, holding corruption within his department responsible for the rising prices. MP John Mbadi suggested that Murungi resign, saying he spent more time in court as a witness than at his post.
Murungi rejected the charges of incompetence and corruption, telling the chamber he was addressing issues of graft.
"Where there are issues of corruption I’m taking action on them and that is the reason why I’m appearing in court as a witness. It is one of the ways of fighting corruption." Murungi explained.
He laid the blame for rising prices on the rise in global petroleum prices as well as rising inflation in Kenya.
But for MP Joseph Nkaissery, the problem was not corruption, but Kenya’s coalition government and its ability to make decisions.
"Who is in charge of increasing this fuel? Is it not the government?" he asked. "Mr. speaker, this is a problem of leadership. And we warned this country. Never again - and I pray - never again, this country should never have a coalition government because we are stuck."
Prices of fuel in Kenya are determined by the country’s Energy Regulatory Commission, which last week announced another increase.
The impact is beginning to spread into other staple items such as flour and corn. According to the World Bank, corn prices in Kenya have jumped 27 percent in the last three months.
After protests hit cities across the country, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday announced a 20 percent tax cut on diesel fuel to help stem rising costs. But consumer organizations in Kenya have panned the cuts as too little too late.