BY MUSLIM LEADERS
Muslim leaders join millions of Kenyans who are deeply concerned about the rising cost of living which has been exacerbated by high fuel and food costs.
It is regrettable that while Kenyans continue to suffer amid a spiraling increase in basic foodstuffs, basic consumer goods and high transportation costs, the political leaders are taking little steps to mitigate the growing economic hardships experienced by the common mwanachi.
The Northern parts of the country are still experiencing drought which has led to widespread starvation and the loss of thousands of livestock and the government has done little to ease this problem.
In 2003, a Gallup poll rated Kenyans as the most optimistic people in the world but this perception has greatly waned due to lack of adequate measures by political leaders to address the concerns of the people. Sadly, the political class is only focused on wrangling in the coalition government and in pursuit of their political interests.
The high cost of living will erode the purchasing power of the mwananchi thereby reducing production whose adverse consequences will be a general decline in the economy and increase in social problems like unemployment and crime.
The increase in the cost of kerosene which is relied upon by a vast majority of Kenyans will lead the poor to seek the wood fuel leading to environmental degradation.
It is our call to the government to take the following measures;
1. The government should move fast to scrap the fuel control mechanism. Though the measures by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) were put in place to cushion the population on the rising fuel cost, the price control regime has failed to live up to its expectations and instead contributed to the rising fuel costs.
2. The move announced by the Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta to reduce the excise duty on diesel and kerosene by 20 and 30 percent respectively is not enough to save Kenyans from the spiraling prices. At the minimum, the government should consider bringing down the cost of fuel which also includes petrol by Sh5 and suspending the Sh2 per litre on the fuel levy for six months.
3. The government should also move in and subsidise the cost of basic foodstuffs to prevent thousands of Kenyans going to bed hungry. The patriotic slogan Najivunia kuwa Mkenya (I am proud to be Kenya) will not make any sense when the government looks the other way as the price of basic foodstuff like maize meal becomes out of the reach of the people.
4. The Mombasa refinery should also be closed down and replaced with an oil storage facility. The high cost of refining at the plant has turned out to be a contributory factor to the rising cost of fuel and the country is better off importing the commodity rather than refining.
5. At the same time, moves should be explored to source cheaper fuel for the country to cushion Kenyans of the future increase in fuel prices.
The government has a duty to protect its citizens from the current worsening economic situation. It should not use the social upheavals in the Arab world as a scapegoat to shy away from its responsibility to protect the suffering Kenyans.
Failure to contain this situation, the government risks driving the people to social unrest in a bid to reclaim their inalienable rights which are being ignored while leaders bury their heads in the sand.
(Signed by Adan Wachu is the Secretary General, Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, Sheikh Muhammad Dor and Sheikh Muhammad Swalihu – Imam-Jamia Mosque Nairobi)