Street protests and withdrawal of public service vehicles from roads on Monday greeted government’s decision to impose 16 percent value added tax on fuel products.
Hundreds of travellers, including school children, were stranded at bus stations in Mombasa after some matatus boycotted work.
The learners, who were reporting back to school for their third term, remained stranded for hours due to lack of vehicles.
Some commuters decided to walk for more than three kilometres to the central business district of island city while others used tuktuks and motorcycles.
Most affected routes included Mtwapa, Bamburi, Likoni and Jomvu.
"By 7.30am, there were no public service vehicles in Bamburi. At around 8.30am, a few started operating but they were charging Sh100 from Bamburi to Mombasa central business district,” Mr Philip Kangethe, who was taking his children to school, said.
“We refused to board and at 9am, they started charging between Sh80. We normally pay Sh60.”
From Diani to Likoni matatus were charging Sh100 from Sh70.
But Matatu Owners Association (Moa) said it will take action against any matatu sacco that raised fare arbitrarily.
Moa Coast coordinator Salim Mbarak said the tax imposed on fuel has affected their business but the association is yet to approve any fare raise.
“We at the Coast have not approved any increase of fares and we are meeting later in the week to discuss on the way forward. We believe President Uhuru Kenyatta will not to sign the imposed 16 per cent VAT on fuel,” Mr Mbarak said.
He asked saccos that have already increased their fares to revert to the old rates.
Mr Mbarak asked commuters to report any cases of fare rise to the nearest police station for action to be taken against those who want to take advantage of the situation.
“Members of the public should get the matatu registration number and Sacco name and report to the nearest police station in case they are over-charged.” Mr Mbarak told the Nation in an interview.
Tuktuk operator Mwandishi Kitsala said the spike in fuel price has already hurt his business.
He said he now goes home with between Sh500 and Sh1,000 since the new fuel price took effect.
Usually, he earns between Sh1,500 and 3,000 a day.
“We used to charge Sh50 for the shortest distance but now we are losing customers as nobody is willing to pay Sh100. I have been forced to increase my daily cost of fuel from Sh400 to Sh600,” he said.
Likoni resident Abdulrahman Salim said he was forced to walk from the Ferry to Buxton as he could not afford the matatu fare.
“Life is currently unbearable and an increase in fuel price will have a ripple effect on all other commodities in the market," he said.
"I have decided to walk from Likoni Ferry to Buxton to save the little I have because I cannot afford the Sh40 fare."
Mr Isaac Wekesa, a bodaboda rider, asked the government not to cluster the rich and the poor together.
“We cannot be in the same pool with the rich. The president must remember we elected him to help us and not the Big Four agenda (sic). The economy is hurting the mwananchi,” he said.
Mr Emmanuel Wafula, who is also in the tuktuk business, said he now spends at least Sh1,000 daily on fuel from the usual Sh600.
In Kwale, matatus also revised fares upwards but the county matatu owners’ association chairman Joseph Mutunga said they were yet to authorise any changes.
"So far, we have not made any changes within the county. We are currently reviewing the fares because our routes are so many but in due course we will issue a notice," he said.
Mr Mutunga said the new tax “is unfortunate” and is likely to hurt the industry.
He urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene and sign the bill passed by MPs stopping implementation of the tax imposed by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich.
"We are not happy in the industry because it is the common mwananchi who suffers more and already the cost of living is high," he said.
Religious leaders, led by the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya secretary-general Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa, urged MPs to ensure living standards go down.
“If the MPs are sincere they should go to court to stop the VAT ,” Sheikh Khalifa.
In Nakuru, matatu operators on Monday joined residents of Langalanga to protest against the high fuel prices.
The hundreds of angry residents, who jammed Kanu Street, lamented the high fares that were being charged by matatus.
They waved placards showing their displeasure with the law, which came into force on September 1.
Business came to a standstill in the area for hours as the protesters barricaded the road and blocked movement of passenger vehicles.
According to the residents, the move by the government was a clear indication that the Uhuru Kenyatta administration does not care about poor citizens.
Nakuru-based political activist Abdi Noor, who led the protests, castigated the government for making Kenyans pay for the huge external loans that were looted by the corrupt.
“I am calling upon the government to look for an alternative way of repaying the huge loans … instead of pushing the burden to the citizens,” he said.
“This is because it is not fair to have the poor citizens pay a debt which only benefited few corrupt individuals through looting.”
The residents further called for the resignation of Mr Rotich, accusing him of imposing a “punitive law” on Kenyans.
This comes as matatu owners confirmed raising travel prices in the county.
Mololine operations Manager David Kahiga told the Nation that they were “forced” to increase the fares to remain afloat.
Following the increment, a passenger wishing to travel from Nakuru to Nairobi will have to part with Sh500 which is up from Sh300 previously charged.
In Juja, Kiambu County, residents were up and queuing at Super Metro Stage as early as 5.30am in a bid to avoid high fares.
One of the passengers revealed that he had left home earlier than usual fearing that the fare would go up by Sh50.
However, as at 5.40am, the fare was still Sh70, the usual rate charged from Juja to Nairobi CBD.
After 6am, which is the beginning of the rush hour, it was expected to go up by Sh10.
Reports by Lilys Njeru, Winnie Atieno, Joseph Openda, Wachira Mwangi and Fadhili Fredrick.