2 May 2017

Burundi: Cause of Fuel Shortage - 'No One Will Tell You the Truth'

It's hard to know the real cause of the lack of fuel that has been paralysing daily activities of many Burundians over the last days.

The cause of fuel shortage has become a mystery. Over the last week, Burundi government authorities were contradictory in their explanation for the cause.

The Director of the Fuel Department at the Ministry of Energy and Mining, Daniel Mpitabakana, said the shortage was due to a "technical breakdown" that interrupted clearance processes within the Burundi Revenue Authority (OBR) which dismissed the claim.

Later, the Minister of Energy and Mining, Côme Manirakiza, told a press conference the shortage was due to the lack of foreign currency.

Manirakiza also partly blamed Kobil (an important oil company) for contracts it has signed with the majority of fuel station managers requiring them not to supply fuel from any other company.

This plays a major role in the current shortage of fuel at stations because the company is not importing due to the lack of foreign currency. The stations are dry since managers cannot get the fuel from importers who are at work. Kobil manager refused to comment on the matter.

OLUCOME, a local corruption watchdog, says mismanagement of the fuel department is the source of the problems. It accuses the director of the department of having shown favouritism and reduced from eight to two (Delta and Interpetrol) the number of companies allowed to import fuel.

The watchdog also says the problem of the lack of foreign currency is worsened by the misuse of currency reserves the government gives to fuel importers.

But what's the real cause? "No one will tell you the truth", says a taxi driver who spoke on condition of anonymity. He, like, many of his colleagues was not working this Tuesday morning because he couldn't find oil.

Whatever its causes are, the lack of fuel is affecting citizens' lives in a way that shouldn't leave the authorities unmoved.

Nduwayo Anthaire, a taxi-driver from the northern province of Bubanza came to Bujumbura on Monday evening to look for oil. He says it's been a week that no drop of fuel is found in his home province. That father of four says "spending an entire week without working whereas that is my only way to earn my living makes life extremely difficult".

At 11 a.m. he was at a fuel station in Ngagara, where he said he had been queueing from 5 a.m. "They told us oil would be available but we don't know when. We're just waiting", he said.

Lavie Mwagalwa, a father of six, owns a cybercafé in Bwiza. He says it has become difficult to pay rent for his home and shop since all his work has stopped with the shortage of fuel. He had opted for a generator to make up for the shortage of electricity.

Lateness at work due to the problem of transport by users of public transport gets some employees in trouble with their bosses. Users of public transport spend long hours queuing at bus stops. The strongest manage to get in when a bus comes.

The current shortage of fuel coupled with the existing scarcity of electricity paralyse activities that rely on the energy generated by the two sources.

Burundi

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