Bloomberg News

Burundian Opposition Urges Government Talks Over Strike Threat

March 15, 2012

Burundi’s opposition leader urged the government to negotiate with civil society and labor-union supporters threatening to hold demonstrations over the rising cost of living and demand government officials pay taxes.

“The Alliance for Democratic Change urges the government to talk with all of those who say life has become difficult because of higher prices,” Leonce Ngendakumana, the head of the group of opposition parties, said in a phone interview today from Bujumbura, the capital. “The government will be the first to lose if all those unionists and citizens start to strike and demonstrate.”

The Forum for the Reinforcement of Civil Society in Burundi is meeting today to decide when to begin protests, Pacifique Nininahazwe, the president of the organization, said in a phone interview. More than 470 civil society organizations and 39 labor unions plan to hold demonstrations across the country, he said.

Burundian inflation accelerated to 21.6 percent in January from 14.9 percent in December as food prices increased, according to the country’s statistics office. The East African country, a coffee and tea-exporter, is the third-least developed nation on the United Nations’ Human Development Index, which measures indicators including education and income, behind Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Water, Electricity Costs

Regie de Production et de Distribution d’Eau et d’Electricite, the state-owned water and power utility, raised electricity costs by as much as 100 percent in September and by as much as 51 percent this month, while water prices as much as tripled since September, according to a document handed to Bloomberg at the company’s office in Bujumbura, the capital, today. The utility announced in May it planned to increase prices to upgrade ageing infrastructure.

The opposition also want senior government officials to start paying taxes, Ngendakumana said.

Civil Service Minister Annonciate Sendazirasa said demonstrations and strikes are “not the solutions to the problems the country has.”

“I’d rather call everyone to work hard instead of striking and demonstrating to allow the country to gain more,” she said told reporters yesterday in Bujumbura.

To contact the reporter on this story: Desire Nimubona in Bujumbura via Nairobi at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.


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