E.AFRICA REELING OVER HIGH COST OF FOOD AND FUEL
Protests that originated in Uganda are now spreading to other East Africa countries. Across the region, people are unhappy over the rapid increases in food and fuel prices. Disappointed in the unprecedented price hikes, citizens are looking for better consumer protection from their governments. Inflation rates are on the rise throughout east Africa. In Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda the cost of food and fuel has sharply increased over the past few months. The high prices have triggered wave of street protests as people call on their leaders to help ease the cost of living. Analysts say that with unrest prevalent across oil producing North Africa and the Middle East, bringing an end to current economic climate will not be easy. This week in Kenya, angry protesters marched to the government’s finance offices, paralyzing traffic for several hours.
“We are protesting because prices of fuel, food petrol, everything is going up and it is affecting the common mwanainchi (citizen). We are saying, let the government intervene, let the government come in between and subsidize what is happening so that wanainchi (citizens) can be able to live comfortably. That is
A recent poll showed that most Kenyans now see the high cost of fuel prices and food commodities as their biggest concern, taking a back seat was corruption and bribery, which had previously been their biggest worries. The survey by pollster Synovate was released one day after fuel prices in east Africa’s largest economy rose by 8.5 percent, prompting calls for public protest.
“We are ready to go all the way, and we are not going to be cowed, we are not going to be intimidated, we are not going to be bullied. We are going to use the constitution to get what is rightfully ours.”
In Kenya, analysts criticized a move by the treasury to check food and fuel prices by reducing Kerosene and Diesel excise tax by 30 and 20 percent respectively, as a solution that would take far too long to be felt by ordinary citizens.
Ugandan economist Patrick Wakida, says the current economic crisis is being felt worldwide and relief may not be near. Due to the ongoing violence in Libya, a key oil producer, oil exported to African nations at subsidized prices has been halted, contributing to the region’s soaring fuel prices. But Wakida says, governments have a responsibility to cushion these effects.
“There are exogenous factors like the conflict in north Africa, those are oil producers, true they are there, but there are endogenous factors that are internal, how do you protect your country from such calamities in order to be called a good driver, if you fail then you are bound to be accused of failure to manage a country, what preparation has been there by the country,”.
In Uganda, peaceful protests against rising fuel prices dubbed “Walk to Work” and led by Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye, recently turned violent when demonstrators clashed with government troops. The two sides also held running street battles on Thursday.
Wakida says Uganda’s government is failing to show any effort to help citizens weather the harsh economic times.
“Why is it in Rwanda petroleum products are lower than they are in Uganda, why is it that Kenya can put percentage cuts on the fuel price and Uganda cannot, what is happening to our country, that is the question everybody is asking,”.
Across the continent, in Burkina Faso, tens of thousands of people marched last week in Ouagadougou angry over the high cost of living. And some of the country’s soldiers upset over unpaid housing allowances, vandalized buildings and stole fuel.