A group of Fort Portal residents plan to hold a demonstration through their town today to protest the hiking of petrol prices. They say the sudden rise in the cost of petrol last week cannot be explained and they are demanding that government acts to bring it down as soon as possible.
The price of petrol in Fort Portal rose from 3,000 shillings, at the beginning of last week, to 4500 shillings over the weekend. Similar price hikes were experienced around the country. In Kampala fuel, both petrol and diesel, rose by 20 to 50 shillings.
Prices of fuel have risen steadily in Uganda since the beginning of the year. Petroleum dealers and government agents blame it on delivery problems from Mombasa and the fluctuation of the shilling.
The Fort Portal residents say these explanations are not satisfactory. In a meeting with the police, the Resident District Commissioner and petroleum dealers, they demanded to know why, during times that the shilling is stable, prices are not reduced. They also asked about the irregular mark up figures that make fuel more expensive in Fort Portal that other towns of similar distance from Kampala.
The fuel dealers said the matter was out of their hands. They said unleaded petrol is scarce and they are struggling to obtain supplies from Kampala. They said new supplies are expected early this week.
This wasn't enough to satisfy the residents who have vowed to demonstrate today.
Joseph Ssentamu, the chief criminal investigations officer at Fort Portal Police Station, called on the fuel dealers to consider offering concessions to their customers. He said the increased prices are inflaming tensions and causing the growth of an illegal petroleum market in the town.
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The increase of petroleum prices has given a second wind to the black market in Fort Portal. Fuel is being smuggled in from the Democratic Republic of Congo and sold on the back streets of the town at considerably lower prices.