A biting fuel shortage in Burundi has disrupted commercial and social activities with pump prices rising more than five fold.
The crisis has persisted for a month now with the government attributing it to a technical error at the revenue authority. It did not disclose the nature of the fault.
“There was a technical problem at the Burundi Revenue Authority and that’s why we have been seeing queues at the petrol stations but the situation is getting back to normal,” Daniel Mpitabakana, the director in charge of petroleum in the Ministry of Energy and Mines, said last week.
Two weeks ago, Energy minister Come Manirakiza, told a press conference the shortage was due to a forex crunch.
The official price for fuel in Burundi is $1.16 per litre but this has shot up to $5 in the parallel black market.
The shortage has compounded power supply problems as businesses handling perishable products and round-the-clock services resorted to generators to keep them running.
“I am no longer buying milk in large quantities as I used to because it goes bad when not put in a refrigerator. There is no electricity to keep it running,” said a trader in Bwiza, a Bujumbura suburb.
Some Burundians are now travelling 29 kilometres to the Democratic Republic of Congo (Uvira) border to refuel their cars.
“We pay $15 for our cars to cross the border to DRC so we can get fuel because we have to run our businesses,” said a trader in Bujumbura.
Cases of fuel smuggling for sale have also been reported.
The government has launched a crackdown on those selling fuel illegally in the capital. It has imposed a dusk-to-dawn (6pm to 7am) curfew on distribution of fuel products, prompting protests from workers who cannot access filling stations during working hours.