Food prices spark second day of riots in Mogadishu

MOGADISHU Tue May 6, 2008 11:38am BST

Protestors shout slogans during a demonstration in Mogadishu, May 5, 2008. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Protestors shout slogans during a demonstration in Mogadishu, May 5, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Feisal Omar

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MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Mogadishu residents protested for a second day on Tuesday against food traders who are rejecting old currency notes, fuelling tension as residents go hungrier, witnesses said.

Hundreds of youths barricaded roads, stoned vehicles and burned tyres in parts of the bombed-out Somali capital demanding that traders accept the worn-out Somali notes from residents desperately in need of food and other essentials.

"I'm hungry and yet cannot even buy food," Abdifatah Hussein, 25, told Reuters holding a bunch of Somali shilling notes. "I fear we might start eating one another. We will never stop protesting until traders accept the notes."

Many shopkeepers have rejected the old notes, which are still legal currency, saying wholesale traders and currency traders will not take them. They are mostly demanding dollars, or newer Somali shillings.

Somalia's shilling is valued at about 34,000 to the dollar, and many blame the nearly 150 percent fall in value over the past year to counterfeiters who mint the notes and then exchange them for dollars.

That factor has ramped up inflation already sparked by rising food prices, and has been a simmering problem across Somalia for the last six months.

Though agriculturally fertile, the violence and anarchy in Somalia makes it dependent largely on food imports.

Local authorities and traders held crisis meetings in Mogadishu on Tuesday in a desperate move to quell the growing anger among residents of one of the world's most impoverished and well-armed cities.

On Monday, a young man was killed when thousands of Somalis protested over the food traders refusal to take the old currency notes blamed for the spiralling inflation, the country's worst in many years.

The Horn of African country has been without any kind of real government since the 1991 ouster of a dictator.

An interim administration in place since late 2004 is busy fighting an insurgency and is largely unable to address the daily needs of its citizens.

(Additional reporting by Ibrahim Mohamed in Jowhar; Writing by Guled Mohamed; Editing by Bryson Hull and Charles Dick)

(For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: africa.reuters.com/)

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