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Drivers in Amhara region hit hard by fuel shortages, skyrocketing prices

Drivers in urban areas of the Amhara region are facing severe fuel scarcity and soaring prices in the black market, hindering their mobility (Photo: DW)

Addis Abeba – Drivers in some urban areas of the Amhara region are currently grappling with a significant fuel scarcity alongside escalated prices within the illicit market, severely impeding their mobility, as indicated by several drivers interviewed by Addis Standard.

In Bahir Dar, the regional capital of Amhara, a driver portrayed the grim circumstances, stating, “Despite the early formation of lengthy queues by drivers in anticipation of diesel procurement each morning, the flow is frequently disrupted due to the dearth of fuel supplies. Nearly all fuel stations are non-operational.”

Another taxi operator in Bahir Dar highlighted that heavy truck drivers are compelled to endure overnight or even multi-day waits for refueling when limited gasoline is sporadically accessible.

He further indicated that taxi drivers are compelled to resort to the black market, where exorbitant prices prevail.

Last week, DW reported on the exorbitant pricing of fuel in Bahir Dar. “In the illicit market, the cost of two liters of diesel exceeds 350 birr,” remarked a taxi driver. “The standard price was expected to be 77 birr per liter; however, vendors are imposing a rate of 175 birr per liter, constituting an illicit increase of 90 birr per liter.”

The driver blamed the regional authorities for failing to address rampant illegal fuel sales, alleging, “Vast quantities are being sold this way to make a profit. From just one tanker truck, millions of birr can be made illegally by circumventing legal channels.”

Nonetheless, Ibrahim Mohammed, the head of the Amhara Regional Trade and Market Development Office, informed DW that they have faced challenges in fuel distribution. “However, efforts have been initiated to rectify the supply issues and deter illicit activities.”

Mohammed stated that the Amhara region hosts over 280 fuel stations, of which 253 are presently operational.

Nevertheless, a driver interviewed by Addis Standard made an allegation that fuel stations purposefully restrict the operation of fuel pumps “in order to sustain queues,” contending, “Out of six pumping facilities, only one is operational.”

The surge in prices is posing significant challenges for taxi drivers to sustain their operations. “The prescribed taxi fare for short distances has escalated from 5 birr to 10 birr,” the driver remarked. “Continuing our work under these circumstances has become exceedingly arduous.”

A taxi operator conducting business in Debre Birhan shared a comparable account with Addis Standard, stating, “one could argue that there is a complete absence of gasoline within the city.”

He observed that while procuring fuel has historically presented challenges, acquiring diesel has become “almost unattainable” over the past two days.

Nonetheless, the driver indicated that prices have remained stable thus far but conveyed apprehension, expressing concern that “should this situation persist, there is a potential for changes to occur.”

The reported fuel shortage and out-of-control prices of commodities are the latest to affect millions of civilians in a region that has been the epicenter of the ongoing militarized conflict involving government forces armed groups that swept large parts of the regional state since August 2023.

Local authorities recently disclosed that the destruction of numerous social and economic institutions in recent months, attributable to conflict, has resulted in the loss of property valued at over 15 billion birr.

Although local authorities repeatedly claim to have put the fighting under control on various occasions, renewed hostilities were reported in recent weeks including in the West and North Gojjam, North Shewa, and North Wollo zones, with roads being blocked off. Intense battles have also occurred around areas such as Gondar, Merawi, Dega Damot, Shewa Robit, Antsokiyana Gemza, and Lalibela town. AS

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