14 July 2008

Cote d'Ivoire: City on Go-Slow as Residents Protest Sudden Fuel Price Rise

Abidjan — Thousands of business-owners have closed down their shops across the capital today and several of the city's main roads have been blocked in protest of a government decision to stop fuel subsidies, which caused prices to rise steeply overnight.

The government, which has been subsidising fuel prices for the past three years, removed these subsidies on 6 July because it could no longer afford to keep them in place. As a result the price of a litre of fuel rose by 29 percent in 24 hours, and the price of diesel by 44 percent.

"After resisting for a long time, we did not have any alternative but to make this adjustment. It was a difficult decision to take," Prime Minister Guillaume Soro announced on the radio on 9 July, following a meeting with his Council of Ministers.

Sokouri Martin, a taxi driver, told IRIN, "Fuel prices are too high and consumers are on the brink of collapse...we decided not to work and to stop all other activities since this morning."

While a city-wide march planned for today did not go ahead, protesters took to the streets in Kumasi, south-east Abidjan, clashing with the police. Police have been deployed at strategic points across the capital ready to disperse demonstrators.

At least a dozen people were injured in demonstrations over the cost of living in Abidjan at the end of March 2008.

Lacine Kéïta, from the Consumers' Association of Côte d'Ivoire told IRIN, "We are not here to have a confrontation, but just to make sure our cries of distress are heard."

The price of a litre of fuel is now US$1.92 and a litre of diesel US$1.32. As a result of rising fuel costs some public transport companies increased their fees by between 25 and 75 percent over the course of the week.

The rising price of fuel is causing anger among residents across the city. "Before I used to pay US$2.90 to get to work and now I pay US$4.36 per day. It's intolerable," said Marlène Kassi, who works in a bank. "I think we will end up having to walk to work soon... This go-slow is to make the government understand that we can no longer live like this," she added.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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