- - 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.

Most of their attacks have occurred in the city of Maiduguri. Last week, the group expanded its reach with a suicide bombing on police headquarters in the capital of Abuja.

But police said they believe the sect is responsible for only one of Monday’s killings.

Police in Maiduguri said motorcycle-mounted gunmen from the group fatally shot an officer of the Nigerian Civil Defense Corps on Monday. The corps helps the police prevent crime, and its officers are unarmed.

SOMALIA

Anger in Somalia after prime minister resigns

NAIROBI, Kenya — Angry Somali citizens and agitated members of parliament said Tuesday they fear that the recent forced resignation of the country’s Somali-American prime minister will allow government corruption to rise again, bringing back a time when soldiers went unpaid for months.

More than 150 lawmakers called for an urgent session of parliament to discuss a recent U.N.-backed deal between Somalia’s president and speaker of parliament that called for the resignation of Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as prime minister.

Mr. Mohamed initially resisted leaving office after an outcry of support from Somalis, but he quit last weekend.

Mr. Mohamed was seen by many Somalis as the rare honest politician in Mogadishu’s toxic political pool, where leaders often put their interests ahead of citizens’.

One of his signature accomplishments was ensuring that Somali soldiers and government workers received their paychecks regularly, a step that greatly boosted his credibility.

During Mr. Mohamed’s seven months in office, the government also has wrested large swaths of territory from al Qaeda-linked militants. The government once controlled only a couple square miles of Mogadishu.

But officials say pro-Somali troops now control half the city after a major offensive launched against al-Shabab this year.

Mr. Mohamed’s ouster, sealed in a June 9 deal, came as a compromise between the country’s bickering President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed and Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden.

The two also agreed this month to extend the government’s term by a year and postpone elections until next year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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