- - Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Kenya, Uganda protest as maize prices skyrocket

NAIROBI | Stephen Omandi scratched out the number “55” on the sign advertising buckets of maize and wrote in the new price: 60 Kenya shillings.

The price increase amounted to only 6 cents. But for the residents of Nairobi’s largest slum, where most people live on $1 a day, that increase is enough to make the essential food stuff unaffordable.

“We haven’t gotten many customers because they complain, ‘Why have you increased the price?”’ said Mr. Omandi. “Five shillings. It’s a lot of money, because many people could not afford it at 55, and now it’s 60.”

Food prices are rising across the globe, driven in part by the higher transport costs that accompany rising oil prices.

The World Bank said last week that food prices are 36 percent higher today than a year ago, and are pushing people “deeper into poverty.”

But no region has been hit harder by rising food costs than Africa over the last three months.

Wheat costs 87 percent more in Sudan. Rice is up 30 percent in Chad. Maize has risen at least 25 percent in Uganda, Somalia, Mozambique and Kenya.

Mr. Omandi used to sell 40 small buckets of maize a day, but on one recent day - the first of his most recent price increase - he sold only two. Mr. Omandi was forced to increase his price because the government had just raised the price ceiling it sets for gasoline. The whole cycle made customers grumble.


Heavy fighting reported in largest city

ABIDJAN | Nine days after former President Laurent Gbagbo was captured, his die-hard forces were still battling troops of Ivory Coast’s democratically elected president on Wednesday in an Abidjan neighborhood, leaving civilians in the crossfire.

While shelling shook the walls of homes in the Yopougon suburb, the rest of Ivory Coast’s commercial capital tried to inch back to normality.

Traffic was returning to the streets and shops were reopening, though there were shortages of many things - including money.

Banks have not reopened and officials said they were trying to get currency sent in from the West African regional bank in Dakar, Senegal.


Miners dying as lawsuit wends through courts

JOHANNESBURG | Lawyers say miners are dying as they await the resolution of a lawsuit seeking to hold Anglo American’s South African managers responsible for their lung disease.

At a news conference Wednesday, the eve of the giant mining company’s annual meeting in London, lawyers said four of 18 miners in the case have died since it started in 2004.

The case is expected to go to trial next year.

“A large percentage have died and many others are very sick,” said London lawyer Richard Meeran, who is working with South African lawyers representing the miners.

Anglo American South Africa spokesman Pranill Ramchander said his company had shares in the mines that employed the workers. He said those companies, not Anglo American, are responsible for workers’ health.


Eritrean exiles protest against autocratic rule

ADDIS ABABA | Hundreds of Eritrean exiles marched in the capital of neighboring Ethiopia to protest their country’s autocratic leadership.

March organizer Kebrom Sibhatu said thousands of Eritrean exiles marched in other parts of Ethiopia. He was among some 500 people who demonstrated peacefully in Addis Ababa on Wednesday.

Ethiopia hosts about 60,000 refugees from the Red Sea nation.

Mr. Kebrom said Eritrea’s authoritarian regime forcibly conscripts its citizens into the army and kills others.

Ethiopia’s autocratic government has an antagonistic relationship with Eritrea and gave the refugees permission to demonstrate.

Eritrea has fought former ruler Ethiopia twice since gaining independence in 1993.


Satellite images show 350 burned buildings

NAIROBI, Kenya | A Southern Sudanese official says 20 people were killed in a village attack in which an advocacy group says satellite images show more than 350 structures were burned.

The Satellite Sentinel Project, a group backed by actor George Clooney, said Monday that analysis of images taken by DigitalGlobe indicated that at least 356 structures had been burned at el-Feid village in the Nuba Mountains of southern Kordofan state.

Kordofan is scheduled to hold an election for state governor in May.

Southern Sudan has seen a sharp increase in violence since a January referendum in which the region voted to secede from the north. The referendum was part of a 2005 peace deal ending a two-decade civil war that cost some 2 million lives.

Southern Sudan is scheduled to become independent in July.

The two front-runners in the governor’s race - incumbent Ahmed Haroun and Abdelaziz al-Hilu - blamed each other for the attack.

Mr. al-Hilu, who is backed by Southern Sudan’s government, accused a militia aligned with the northern government and under Mr. Haroun’s command, the Popular Defense Force, of attacking el-Feid and the nearby village of Um Barmbita on April 13.

According to the Satellite Sentinel Project, Mr. al-Hilu also alleged that attackers burned between 300 to 500 houses and reportedly killed more than 20 people, including women and children.

The Associated Press was not able to independently confirm the death toll.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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