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Apollinaire Niyirora: Hard times as Burundi suffers fuel shortages

by Apollinaire Niyirora BUJUMBURA Burundi (Xinhua) -- The scarcity of gasoline at petrol stations in Burundi for about two weeks has hardened the life of the east African country’s citizens, residents in the Burundian capital Bujumbura have told Xinhua.

The shortage of gasoline has impacted on Burundian citizens’ lives in different ways, with drivers and owners of motorbikes and cars being the first to be affected.

"If I don’t drive my passenger with minibus, I will not be able to eat and to feed my family," said Hamisi Manirambona, a driver of a passenger minibus.

According to him, his life has become "tough" since March 6 when the scarcity of gasoline started to be reported at petrol stations.

"The unavailability of gasoline at petrol stations is a big loss for us.

"I have not worked for two days for failing to get gasoline," said Jean Baptiste Niyonkuru, a passenger minibus driver using the Bujumbura-Cibitoke road.

The gasoline scarcity has made bus drivers hard to take long- distance travel into the countryside.

Niyonkuru said one have to queue for more than four hours to be given only 10 liters of gasoline.

He said that 10 liters can only be enough to drive within Bujumbura city "for a short time" and not outside Bujumbura.

In order to be able to work, drivers have to purchase gasoline at the black market in Buyenzi urban commune where a liter costs 5, 000 Burundi francs (3.2 U.S. dollars) while the price set by Burundian Trade Ministry is 1,880 francs.

Meanwhile, the fare has increased for passengers using motorbikes to go to the countryside.

"I was forced to pay 1,500 francs to leave my home in Ngagara to the Asian Area where I work.

"But before, I was used to paying only 1,000 francs when gasoline was available at petrol stations," said Innocent Bizumuremyi, a salesman in a shop in the Asian Area in the urban commune of Rohero.

"I am unable to take my children to school because my car is short of gasoline," said Fredianne Niyondiko, found queuing at Top One petrol station near Ntahangwa River.

She said "appointments are no longer respected" and added that civil servants as well as people working in the public sector are these days late to work because of the shortage of gasoline.

Burundian Trade, Industry, Post and Tourism Minister Marie Rose Nizigiyimana earlier this month said fuel importers were unable to import gasoline for failing to get loans from the country’s Central Bank (BRB) in order to get hard currencies to take to the international market of oil products.

According to her, fuel importers owe more than 20 million U.S. dollars to the Burundian Central Bank (BRB).

While gasoline is scarce at petrol stations countrywide, gasoil and paraffin are available.

The gasoline scarcity is reported in Burundi while confederations of labor unions in January launched a campaign against what they called "high living cost," urging the Burundian government to lower the price of oil products up to at least 1,700 francs a liter with regards to the falling prices of oil products at the international market. (One U.S. dollar equals 1,562.5 Burundi francs).

             

 

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