Ugandan traders begin two-day strike

2011-07-06 12:57

Kampala - Ugandan merchants on Wednesday closed their shops in the capital, Kampala, for a two-day strike against rising prices and an erratic foreign exchange rate, prompting the government to deploy police throughout the city.

Media reports also said outlets have been closed in other communities, including the south-western opposition stronghold of Masaka.

Merchants say they oppose government policies that allow foreigners, including many Chinese and Indian traders, to operate in Uganda.

Businessmen of the over-25 000-strong Kampala City Traders Association (Kacita) also complain that the government has not intervened against rising fuel prices, which they say has pushed up the prices of essential commodities to levels customers cannot afford.

"Kacita considers the following issues, amongst other, as pertinent in the economy; high exchange rates, high taxes, high prices, government expenditure, investment pattern, license, and foreigners engaging in petty trade," Kacita chairperson Everest Kayondo said in a statement.

"Government intervention is required in the foreign exchange market to control the upswing in the foreign exchange," he added.

President Yoweri Museveni, re-elected for another five-year term in February, has been facing a series of violent opposition-led protests, mostly over the rising cost of living in the East African state.

Peaceful demonstration

Over a one-month period, the price of sugar has risen by nearly 100%, to nearly $2 per kilogram. Prices have also skyrocketed for other commodities, like rice and grain.

Anti-riot police and other armed security groups have been deployed in Kampala, its suburbs and in other towns to quell any possible outbreak of violence.

In April and May, protests led by the political opposition over the high cost of living were violently crushed when authorities used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons. A number of people were killed and scores injured.

"All people involved in business and trade have closed their shops. We as leaders are ready for any eventuality. We expect the government not act like a rebel government," Mubarak Ntale, Kacita deputy spokesperson told the German Press Agency dpa.

"Since this is a peaceful demonstration, we do not expect the demonstrators to be mistreated by the police. Our demonstration is to express what we are going through, especially the escalating prices."