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Kenya crisis causes regional fuel shortages

Political violence in Kenya is choking off supplies of fuel and petroleum products to neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Burundi.

world Updated: Jan 02, 2008 21:35 IST
Francis Kwera
Francis Kwera

Political violence in Kenya is choking off supplies of fuel and petroleum products to neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Burundi and is likely to hit a swathe of others from eastern Congo to south Sudan.

They all get fuel from Kenyan ports, where supply lines have been interrupted by the chaos that has followed the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki.

In Uganda's capital Kampala on Wednesday, many cars stood abandoned by their owners on roadsides as petrol pumps ran dry.

Some residents and businesses stock-piled what they could get and then hoarded it, fearing more disruption to come.

"Though there has been a general scarcity of petrol, the Kenya crisis has worsened it," Ugandan Energy Minister Daudi Migereko told Reuters.

"A lot of fuel destined for Kampala is stuck in (Kenyan port) Mombasa and for now there is nothing to be done."

In neighbouring Burundi, a petroleum importer said the land-locked country was also reeling from the unrest in Kenya.

"Burundi is feeling the effect, there is already a jet fuel shortage at Bujumbura international airport," said Joan Njoroge, acting general manager of the South African Engen Petroleum.

Engen imports about 70 per cent of the fuel in the country and also supplies UN peacekeepers in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, Njoroge said.

"The risk won't be only oil prices going up, but there will be oil shortage, which is very dangerous for Burundi," she told Reuters, referring to a possible economic crisis.

In Kampala, there were harsh words from the Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA), which accused the authorities of ignoring repeated warnings to maintain the nation's reserves.

"Our advice had not been heeded, and now we have the entire transport sector frozen," said UMA spokesman Henry Obonyo.

The shortages came at the worst time for Uganda, where supplies were already depleted after many people followed their usual Christmas tradition and travelled long distances upcountry to visit relatives.

"People might have to suffer high transport costs in the short run," Migereko said. "But it might not go on very long. Government is working round the clock to address the problem."

(Additional reporting by Patrick Nduwimana in Bujumbura)