File photo shows people in Bujumbura, Burundi, on June 19, 2015.(Xinhua)
by Apollinaire Niyirora
BUJUMBURA, May 14 (Xinhua) -- The transport sector in Burundi is affected following an oil shortage hitting the east African nation for about a month, car owners and users told Xinhua.
In the Burundian capital Bujumbura, several people who used to take taxis or minibuses to their workplaces now walk because taxis and passenger minibuses are scarce due to the acute shortage of oil products.
"Due to the shortage of passenger minibuses, I have now decided to walk to my office every morning because there are limited chances to get a minibus at the bus station,"
"If I wait for the bus, I will get it around 8:30 a.m. or at 9:00 a.m. whereas I have to report to work at 7:30 a.m. at the latest," said Jean Marie Niyonzima, residing at Kigobe in the north of the capital Bujumbura and working in a pharmacy in Bujumbura city center.
Another female worker, who used to take a taxi to her workplace, now walks to her office, or requests a ride as the price of a taxi has also increased due to the scarcity of oil.
"Before, I had a taxi-man who would take me from home to the office and after work, from the office to my house. But now, I have to join a team of other persons walking to the city center, or if I feel weak, I request a ride from neighbors," Sylvie Bendahafi, residing at Musaga in the south of the capital and working in a bakery in the capital city, said.
She indicated that she is unable to pay a taxi whose fare has now doubled.
Drivers of taxis as well as owners of cars in general face challenges getting gasoline at petrol stations both in the capital and the countryside.
"When I learn that a given petrol station has received oil products, I have to be there with my taxi at 3 o'clock early in the morning so that I will be among the first to be served. Unfortunately, the petrol station attendants cannot accept to give me the needed quantity of gasoline. This means that one day later, I will have to queue again for gasoline at a petrol station," Jacques Harabagabo, a taxi driver said.
He said that he has avoided taking passengers far from Bujumbura city center because his car would use a lot of gasoline.
Harabagabo added that he is not making money because people now walk instead of taking taxis because the taxi fare has gone on the rise.
"We (taxi drivers) get money when it is raining as people don't have any other choices than taking taxis," he said.
Harabagabo said that some car drivers can get oil products after seeking them at three or four petrol stations with a risk of getting an empty tank before reaching a petrol station.
As gasoline is scarce at petrol stations, it is nevertheless secretly sold in some neighborhoods mainly at Buyenzi in the Burundian capital Bujumbura at higher prices.
Herman Bizimana, a taxi driver, told Xinhua that a liter of gasoline sold at 2,100 Burundi francs (1.2 U.S. dollars) at petrol stations is now purchased at 7,000 Burundi francs (4.1 dollars) at the black market at Buyenzi.
"We have increased the price of transport because the price of gasoline has also increased. Queuing at petrol stations really gives us a headache. You can spend a whole day or even two days queuing from a petrol station to another for gasoline," said Bizimana.
In April, Burundian Energy Minister Come Manirakiza told lawmakers at the National Assembly -- the country's parliament lower chamber that the oil shortage was due to the "failure" by the Burundian government to "have enough" hard currency.
Meanwhile, earlier this week, the energy ministry announced that petrol stations should only open during daytime, between 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. to avoid "possible" fraud.
The Burundi Consumers' Association (ABUCO) has called on the east African country's government to quickly solve the oil crisis hitting the country.
"Urging petrol stations to open during daytime hours is not a solution to the fuel crisis. Urgent solutions to this (fuel) crisis need to be found by the government," the ABUCO said.
It further warned that Burundi's economy will face a "terrible decline" if the oil crisis continues to deepen.
Burundi has been facing a political and economic crisis following the controversial third term bid of President Pierre Nkurunziza in April 2015.
Several partners of Burundi including the European Union (EU) have frozen their financial aid towards the east African country's government.