May 6, 2008 / 10:05 AM / 11 years ago

Food prices trigger second day of Mogadishu riots

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Angry Mogadishu residents protested for a second day on Tuesday against food traders who rejected old currency notes, blocking roads and stoning cars.

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

Witnesses said at least one storekeeper was stabbed by protesters after one demonstrator was shot and killed on Monday.

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

Police commissioner Abdi Hassan Awale Qaybdiid said Islamist militants from the al Shabaab group had infiltrated the protests on Monday and killed “several civilians”.

But there was no independent confirmation of his report, and the insurgents could not immediately be reached for comment.

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

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

That has ramped up inflation already triggered by rising food prices. Though agriculturally fertile, Somalia’s violence and anarchy makes it largely dependent on food imports.

Local authorities and traders met 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.

As spokesman for traders in Bakara Market, the city’s biggest, said they had agreed to accept all genuine Somali bank notes, and to take tough action against anyone using fakes.

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 fighting the rebels and is largely unable to address the daily needs of citizens.

(Additional reporting by Ibrahim Mohamed in Jowhar; Writing by Guled Mohamed; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Myra MacDonald)

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

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