Riots in Mozambique over increase in bread prices

Roads were blocked with burning tyres and shops were looted in Mozambique’s capital Maputo as deadly riots sparked by soaring bread prices entered a second day. According to hospital sources, at least six people were killed, including two children, as police opened fire on protesters in the worst riots to hit the country since 2008. But an official statement by the police stated that four people were killed, including two children. The rioting was prompted by a 30% increase in bread prices in one of the world’s poorest countries, which has never fully recovered from one of Africa’s bloodiest civil wars. Jose Pacheco the country’s Home Affairs Minister, said the government was trying to identify the source of text messages and emails which have been circulating since Tuesday, urging residents to join the protests.

Speaking on private television STV, Pacheco said “We registered deaths, injuries, loss of property through use of stones and shooting by police using rubber bullets. There is no order to use live bullets.” Apparently, other top police officials said live ammunition was used in some places after police ran out of rubber bullets and citizens also reported that real bullets were fired. “We are working on identifying the people who organised the protests and to put the blame for the deaths and injuries as well as destruction of property.  While officials put the death toll at four, sources within the police and at hospitals said at least six were killed and STv reported 10 deaths, about 140 arrested, 27 seriously injured and 32 shops, including banks, looted.

Most residents in Mozambique say they have been hit hard by rising costs for basic necessities including bread, as wheat prices have soared around the world. Mozambique also has suffered from the rising costs of goods imported from South Africa, whose rand currency has strongly appreciated in value. Pacheco said the riots must stop and urged citizens to air their grievances through dialogue with the government. “The protests are illegal and they will not contribute to efforts by Mozambicans to fight poverty,” he said, referring to routine meetings between President Armando Guebuza and residents countrywide.

On Wednesday, Guebuza condemned the killings and destruction of public and private property and called on Mozambicans to restore order, adding the government had made progress in implementing its strategic plan to improve food production, infrastructure and provide running water and better schools. This riot is the worst the county has experienced since  2008. At that time, six people were killed while protesting over high fuel prices and living costs. Then, the government agreed to cut the price of diesel fuel for minibus taxis. But it seems the people are even more determined this time as the price increase had to do with a basic food item.

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