Fuel shortages have paralysed the small central African nation of Burundi, threatening further damage to an economy already moribund after years of political violence and raising questions about the role of the country’s only oil importer….
The shortages, which forced government to introduce rationing on May 16, have paralysed commerce and caused food prices to jump, raising the prospect of economic migration. More than 400,000 people have already fled Burundi into the volatile central African region. Anti-corruption campaigners said fuel shortages became severe after Burundian company Interpetrol Trading Ltd. received the lions’ share of dollars allocated by the central bank to import fuel.
“The oil sector is undermined by favouritism and lack of transparency, because the rare hard currency available in the central bank reserves is given to one oil importer,” The central bank declined to answer Reuters’ questions….
Interpetrol is now the sole oil importer and runs all fuel storage tanks in the country, said an industry source. Banzubaze said there was “no link” between Interpetrol’s shareholders and any member of government.
A 2011 US State Department report described attempts by senior government officials to pressurise judges into dropping a corruption case against the company, owned by brothers Munir and Tariq Bashir. …Government officials blame dollar shortages on aid cuts donors imposed after President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term in 2015, triggering a wave of political violence.
“These days, fuel importers don’t get enough dollars to bring in petroleum products,” said Daniel Mpitabakana, government’s director of fuel management….The street exchange rate is 2,600 francs to the dollar, although it is just over 1,700 to the dollar at the central bank. Only the central bank can receive dollar deposits and allocate dollars to businesses…
Burundi has also been battered by drought and almost two years of political instability. Hundreds of people were killed and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee during political violence, which sometimes still erupts in low-level clashes.
Burundi paralysed by fuel shortages, Reuters, Wednesday, 31 May 2017