- - Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ETHIOPIA

Food prices spike after government intervention

ADDIS ABABA — When Ethiopia's government imposed price controls in January to combat the spiraling cost of staples such as meat, cooking oil and bread, butcher Wabe Habse had a long line of customers but could barely make a profit.

After price controls were dropped earlier this month, Mr. Wabe still is not making money.

“The meat market has collapsed,” said Mr. Wabe, who raised his prices nearly twofold and saw his customers abandon him. “I am not sure how we are going to survive.”

Ethiopia, like many African nations, has seen spiraling food prices this year. Nearby Uganda has seen violent protests over rising costs.

Buyers and sellers in Ethiopia’s capital say the government’s attempt to bring down prices by imposing price caps on basics such as oil and sugar for five months this year caused even more turmoil. When they were in place, the price caps bankrupted businesses that could not afford to sell at cheaper prices.

The government claims the country is a victim of rising international food prices, but the International Monetary Fund says the government is causing inflation by borrowing and printing money to pay for infrastructure projects. One economist called the government’s attempt at price caps “a fool’s errand.”

After most of the caps were lifted early this month, prices again soared to levels unaffordable for many here. Already, 3.2 million Ethiopians depend on food aid. Recent government figures put inflation at nearly 35 percent in the past year.

In a rare show of rebellion in a country historically used to authoritarianism, Ethiopian consumers earlier this month started a text-message campaign to boycott meat in an attempt to force prices down.

NIGERIA

Police: 7 killed in sect-style killings

KATSINA — Gunmen in northern Nigeria have killed seven people in attacks that resembled previous strikes by a feared Muslim sect, police said, though authorities said copycats may have been responsible for most of the killings.

Monday’s attacks in Nigeria’s restive north followed a threat last week by the radical Boko Haram sect that it would escalate attacks in the region.

The sect is responsible for a string of killings that have targeted security officers, community leaders and clerics in Nigeria’s northeast.

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