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By Noel King
Kigali
04 January 2008

Post-election violence in Kenya has crippled the delivery of fuel to Rwanda, forcing authorities to institute petroleum rationing. Rwandans who depend upon their cars for business say they fear a continuation of the crisis may have devastating economic consequences. Noel King has more in this report from the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Protesters carry sticks while walking past burning shops in Nairobi, Kenya, 3 Jan. 2008
Protesters carry sticks while walking past burning shops in Nairobi, Kenya, 3 Jan. 2008
Rwanda imports most of its petroleum from the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, but ethnic clashes have blocked roads across Kenya following the nation's hotly contested Presidential election.

Rwanda's Minister of Commerce, Industry, Investment and Tourism, Protais Mitali, says Rwanda will now turn to neighboring Tanzania for help importing petroleum.

"We are trying to take measures to avoid a crisis. We are trying to use the Dar Es Salaam port and the road from Tanzania to Rwanda," he said.

Rwandan drivers have been limited to ten liters of gasoline per day for small cars and twenty liters for larger vehicles. Those who depend upon their vehicles to make a living say they fear the economic consequences of a long-term conflict in Kenya may be devastating.

Adrian Nzabire is a driver who ferries tourists and businesspeople around Rwanda.  "If it continues, it will be a big problem, because all of our petrol and many things come from Kenya," he said.

The future is not grim for everyone, though. Sam Dargan is the chief executive officer of Great Lakes Energy, a Kigali-based company that sells and installs solar panels. He told VOA that the current fuel shortages illustrate the importance of solar energy in countries where many people depend upon fuel-based generators for electricity.

"When there's a fuel shortage two things happen:  the price of fuel goes up, which makes solar [energy] a more economical investment than it already is; and they struggle to get fuel for the generators they need, which makes solar [energy] an urgent priority," he noted.

Rwandan authorities said they are not making plans to end the fuel rationing at this time.

Rwanda's neighbor, Uganda, has also been hit hard by the shortages. Prices of staple foods in the country have risen by as much as 30 percent, as farmers struggle to get their crops from outlying areas to the capital, Kampala.

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