Reports making the rounds in the three capitals of eastern African countries indicate that economic sanctions, including a crucial oil embargo imposed an Burundi last July, are being comprehensively evaded and busted.
According to a variety of sources in Nairobi, Kampala and Dar es Salaam, despite the economic sanctions in force against Burundi, a wide range of products, from cement to beer, are widely on sale in Bujumbura and other towns in Burundi. Concerned surrounding states plan to hold a summit in the Central African state soon.
Some items are being smuggled into the country in boats across Lake Tanganyika while others are being trucked in by a network of highly organised businessmen. A convoy of ten fuel tankers, their number plates obscured by mud, were recently seen driving to Bujumbura, the Burundi capital. Five of the tankers, which were equipped with trailers, reportedly came from Rwanda, and five from Tanzania.
The ten trucks converged at Kayanza junction inside Burundi then proceeded in single file to Bujumbura where residents said they entered the city.
The sanctions were imposed by neighbouring East and Central African nations a few days after Major Pierre Buyoya seized power in a military coup last year. In an interview with a local weekly last September, Major Buyoya said his country would "explode" if sanctions persisted for three months. Five months after the embargo was announced, there are few signs of the East African nations easing their stance. However, current developments in eastern Zaire, the ingenuity of entrepreneurs and the pressure of market forces, seem to have lightened some of the burdens on the land-locked nation.
Senior Government officials in Bujumbura admitted that there were numerous reports reaching their offices of the sanction busting on a large scale across virtually all the country's frontiers. "These things are coming in but what can we do? It's the high price of fuel here that is attracting all sorts of suppliers," said one official, who preferred to remain anonymous.
Petrol and diesel in Bujumbura costs between $2.50 to $3 per litre compared to $1 in Uganda where it is considered over-priced. A petrol station operator in Bujumbura said a Tanzanian had set up an oil operation in the city with a small office. "This man is doing roaring business," he said. "His stuff is sold immediately on arrival in town and he brings in most of the fuel."
Other commodities finding their way into the shops in...