30 November 2012

Southern Africa: Protests Over High Food Prices Likely in DRC and Zambia

Increased food prices, due to the suspension of Rwandan imports in the DRC and due to maize shortages in Zambia, are likely to lead to demonstrations.

DRC: Price increases likely to cause protests and riots in Kinshasa and Bukavu

On November 28, the government accused M23 rebels of looting and transporting goods to Rwanda prior to their withdrawal from the regional capital Goma. The M23 incursion has caused the suspension of goods imported from Rwanda through Goma. This has led to significant price increases of between 30% and 50% on goods such as tea and beef and especially beans, a staple in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The price rise, coming at the same time as general dissatisfaction with the government's handling of the security crisis in eastern DRC, is likely to trigger further protests in Kinshasa and Bukavu over the coming week, raising the risk of protests spreading to towns like Kisangani, Bunia, and Kindu. Police response is likely to be heavy-handed especially in Kinshasa including the use of batons and tear gas with the use of live ammunition as a last resort. Previous protests resulted in arson attacks on government buildings and the looting of shops.

Zambia: Violent protests very likely in the Copperbelt province

Since November 20, acute shortages of maize meal have been reported in the Copperbelt province. Despite government assurances on November 25 that millers would resume adequate supply, local media reported continued shortages which had caused price increases of up to 100%.

If prices do not normalise by next week, violent protests are highly likely particularly in light of reports of opposition incitement. Likely targets include retailers and local millers in Copperbelt towns and cities including Kitwe, Ndola, Mufulira and Chingola. The government is likely to respond to street protests with force. Mining assets in the region are unlikely to be targeted; however, there is a moderate risk of disruption (not exceeding a couple of days) to cargo due to street protests.

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