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Kenya police disperse food protesters

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan police fired teargas on Saturday to disperse hundreds of demonstrators protesting against high food prices in the east African country.

A woman sells vegetables in Nairobi's Kibera slum January 10, 2008. Kenyan police fired teargas on Saturday to disperse hundreds of demonstrators protesting against high food prices in the east African country. REUTERS/Noor Khamis/Files

Food prices have risen sharply in the region’s biggest economy since a political crisis over a disputed election led to food shortages.

Annual inflation rose to 26.6 percent in April from 21.8 percent in March because of food prices.

“The government must subsidize the cost of food, it is not fair for the poor to be suffering with high food prices yet the government has not increased salaries,” said Tom Aosa, one of the organizers.

Several protesters were bundled into police cars during the march. Nairobi’s police chief Tito Kilonzi said the demonstration was illegal. Four people were arrested, he told reporters.

The marchers carried placards urging the government to slash the cost of maize flour, a Kenyan staple, to 30 shillings ($0.48) from the current 80 shillings.

“On Monday (a public holiday) your families will eat chicken, meat, and chapattis, what do you expect us to eat, if we cannot afford to make Ugali, leaves?” shouted one angry protester.

Sharp hikes for essential food and fuel have triggered riots and protests in African countries from neighboring Somalia to Cameroon and Senegal in West Africa.

In Kenya, violence after President Mwai Kibaki’s disputed election last December killed more then 1,200 and displaced 300,000 others, while maize in granaries and on farms was set ablaze.

Kibaki has ordered the state cereals board to import three million bags of maize for the country as the agricultural sector gets back on its feet.

(Writing by Wangui Kanina)

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

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