The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has opposed the increase in fuel prices as announced on Sunday, citing tough economic times.
In a statement shortly after the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) announced higher prices of super petrol, diesel and kerosene, the party said it is not the right time as the Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on many.
Epra’s acting Director-General Daniel Bargoria said the costs of a litre of super petrol, diesel and kerosene had risen by Sh7.63, Sh5.75, and Sh5.41 per litre, respectively, for the March 15 to April 14 period.
ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna termed the price changes shocking, “coming soon after the previous ones and just as the country is going into a third wave of the pandemic”.
The ODM official noted that it has been exactly one year since Covid-19 was first reported in Kenya, creating job losses, collapsing industries and winding up SMEs.
“The pandemic has been a tragedy for the already heavily-taxed population. Central to this tragedy has been the cost of energy, which has an impact on every facet of our lives,” he said.
Mr Sifuna acknowledged the government’s urgent need for more money, through tax collections for example, in order to fund its operations, but said “we can’t see the moral ground on which to levy more taxes on a population itself on its knees from the same”.
“In the African culture, you do not milk a dead cow,” the party officials said.
“Silence on our part at this time will amount to complicity. We therefore unequivocally state that we are opposed to this increase in the prices of fuel. We demand that this decree is rescinded before it becomes effective.”
While noting that ODM is founded on the tenets of social democracy, Mr Sifuna said the party will stand with Kenyans in this “difficult time” in the hope that sense will prevail.
“Our rallying call has always been that capitalism must hold a human face, where the welfare of the citizens is balanced by the need for tax revenues for the government to run,” he said.
“It is at such times that the human face needs to shine even brighter. Beyond individual citizens, our own manufacturing industry, the base on which we hope to build our recovery after the pandemic, will be hit hard by another increase in the cost of energy.
“This does not make sense on any front. Increasing the price of diesel just as the farming and planting season sets in is nothing but diabolic.”
Mr Sifuna criticised Epra further, saying it has shown a lack of sensitivity to the aspirations of the common man, and termed it a danger to items in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four.
These are affordable housing, universal health coverage, manufacturing and food security.
ODM, whose leader is politician Raila Odinga, also noted that across the globe, many governments have offered stimulus packages and rescue plans for individuals and businesses, to cushion them from the effects of the pandemic and ensure stability.
“History is replete with evidence that restive populations burdened by skewed economic policies are easily amenable to revolutions,” he said.