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Deaths in Mozambique price riots
Ten people left dead following three days of clashes between police and demonstrators over high food prices.
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2010 15:44 GMT
Long queues at bakeries reflect Mozambique's ongoing crisis, with residents unable to buy daily bread [Reuters]

Violent protests over high food prices in Mozambique have left at least 10 people dead and more than 440 people wounded.

In the latest clashes, which began on Wednesday, three police officers were injured in fighting with demonstrators in Maputo, the capital, on Friday evening.

Police have used rubber bullets and tear gas against protesters but no incidents were reported overnight and the situation was said to be quiet on Saturday.

"The situation at this point is apparently quite calm," Fernando Lima, the publisher of the country's weekly newspaper Savana, told Al Jazeera.

"You cannot find signs of violence, aside from stores that have been looted."

Speaking on Saturday, Americo Ubisse, a Red Cross spokesman in Maputo, said: "We have no incidents reported since yesterday. Everything is fine, the situation is still under control."

The organisation, which has been monitoring the demonstrations, also said Chomoio, in the centre of the country, was quiet, following fresh skirmishes on Friday night.

Thousands of people have been angered by a 30 per cent increase in the price of bread and higher electricity and water tariffs.

Severe droughts in Russia and eastern Europe have caused worldwide wheat prices to rise and are partly responsible for Mozambique's higher living costs.

Mozambique is also heavily dependent on imports from South Africa, which have become more expensive in recent months as the South African rand currency has strengthened.

Government 'woke up'

While the government has usually relied on television stations and newspapers to relay information about price hikes, Lima said, ministers are now visiting Mozambique's villages personally to quell residents' anger.

"We are seeing all the ministers all of a sudden ... going to the neighbourhoods explaining what the international crisis means to Mozambique," he said.

"The government has made a huge shift in their ... [public relations] efforts. The government woke up."

Most of the demonstrators are young and unemployed people, Lima said, though many Mozambicans who have not joined the protestors still support them, because "they also feel ... the increase of living costs".

Unemployment in the southern African nation stands at 54 per cent, according to the government.

Bakery queues

Soldiers were on the streets of the capial on Saturday to clean up debris left over from the riots.

Protestors have been looting shops, setting cars and tyres on fire, and barricading roads.

On Friday, Maputo residents formed long queues outside of bakeries that have been closed since Wednesday. Queues have also formed at petrol stations around the city.

"People don't have money to buy food," Elisa Aldino, a domestic worker, told the AFP news agency as she waited in a bread line in a middle-class neighborhood.

"They don't have enough. If they don't have money, they sleep without eating."

The government has said the hike in food prices is "irreversible".

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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