Racketeering at roadblocks raises food prices

Young men unloading sacks of cashews from a truck in the city of Odienne, northwestern Cote d'Ivoire, June 2007. Cashew farmers are struggling with low selling prices; prices are driven down largely by fees imposed on the transport of goods in the rebel-c
(Nancy Palus/IRIN)

Bribes extracted by police and military forces at road blocks along most of the country’s main transport routes are pushing already high food prices even higher, causing the government and military commanders to step in.

Transporters may have to pay the authorities up to US$71 for a journey from field to market which may be punctuated by as many as 15 roadblocks, according to food-seller Trazié Lou.

"This racketeering is contributing to soaring market prices," Lamine Doulaye, head of a transport organisation, told IRIN. “To distribute consumer products on the market, we have to hand over between US$2.37 and US$47 depending on the truck, despite already having paid transport taxes to the state.”

He continued, “in order to ensure returns on our profits we have to impose the maximum prices on our goods. This means some market-sellers have increased prices from 25 to 60 percent.”

Lou now sells goods at US$1.18 which sold for US$0.50 this time last year.

Philippe Mangou, chief-of-staff of the Cote d’Ivorian army, told IRIN authorities will extract a fine if vehicle papers are not 100 percent in order.

“Any vehicle that lacks all the right registration documents will end up supporting corruption by the authorities,” he commented.

Riots broke out in Côte d'Ivoire in late March of this year when thousands of people took to the streets to protest high food prices. (article link) Since then the government has adopted several emergency measures, including abolishing export taxes on certain consumer products.

In February and March 2008 transporters and traders also went on strike to denounce the racketeering by law enforcers.

The corruption allegations were corroborated by the findings of a report published by the Defence and Security Committee of the National Assembly in late May 2008.

"Abuses and atrocities committed against civilians are numerous and take many forms, ranging from intimidation and murder through to racketeering. The complicity and responsibility of the hierarchy [in the police forces] is often denied”, stated the report.

To combat the practice on 2 June Laurent Dona Fologo, president of the country’s Economic and Social Council (CES) called for a national campaign to fight corruption and bribery at road-blocks.

And military leaders are stepping in with their own campaign to stop racketeering among military officers at road-blocks. They plan to destroy a number of road-blocks on roads connecting Abidjan, Yamoussoukro, Toumodi, Dimbokro and Tiébissou, and give harsh penalties to officers who continue to extract bribes.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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