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Uganda fuel shortage sends prices skyrocketing

A general view of a Total petrol station in Kampala Uganda, on January 28, 2020.   -  
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On Monday, many pumps had run dry in the northern and western regions of the East African country. The fuel shortage has sent prices skyrocketing.

Hundreds of trucks remain stuck in tailbacks at the border Uganda shares with Kenya. In town, motorcyclists and motorists struggled in search of petrol stations spared by delivery issues. Some of them had to rely on the intel of relatives. It was the case for Joel Aduba too, a civil engineer: "A lot of friends called me and told me about them trying to go to other petrol stations and they cannot get fuel. Right now it is a very big situation not just a joke."

The serious situation has caused a surge in prices that make fuel difficult to afford for some city-dweller. Indeed, a litre of fuel was selling at 12,000 Ugandan shillings ($3.40), up from 4,000 shillings previously.

The issue was addressed by Energy Minister Ruth Nankabirwa who called dealers not to take advantage of the shortage to cheat Ugandans with high prices. "I know we are following a liberalised economy where goods follow market demand to determine prices but you can't put fuel (up) from 4,000 to 12,000 Ugandan shillings, that is cheating", she said. But on the field, her invitation has yet to be received.

Many motorcycle riders like Williams Lukongo were charged a steep price: "“What is going on in the country?” It is too high; I’ve never seen the prices of fuel going high to that extent."

Local authorities blame the delays on a faulty scanner used by custom officials to check vehicles and "issues regarding Covid-19". One truck driver, Mohammed Abubaker Kayima, told AFP there were queues of goods vehicles stranded at the Malaba border crossing between Uganda and Kenya.

"There are hundreds of trucks clogged at the border waiting for clearance from customs and Covid-19 task forces," the 57-year-old said. "Some have been there for days."

Before the petrol station stock levels and the prices go back to normal, Ugandans continue to struggle. Some were even obliged to abandon their vehicules.

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