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Rebel Northern Ivory Coast Towns Run Out of Gasoline

Several northern towns in rebel-held Ivory Coast have run out of gasoline in recent days. In some areas, street vendors are selling black market fuel at up to six times the normal price. Nancy Palus reports from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar.

A taxi driver in the northwestern town of Odienne tells VOA the gasoline shortage is hitting people hard.

Samuel Koffi says, when his taxi runs out of gas, he will just push it to his home and stop working. He says, even if he finds black market fuel at three or four times the normal price, it is not practical, because, he says, as it is, people have a hard time paying taxi fares, and he cannot ask them to pay more.

In Odienne, Korhogo and other cities in northern Ivory Coast, gasoline has been hard to come by for four days now. Some vendors are selling what they had in reserve, or they are buying fuel in other cities to sell, but at higher prices.

This is the part of Ivory Coast that was taken over by rebels in 2002. Officials from a power-sharing government are now gradually returning to the north, but it is still the rebels, known as the New Forces, who control the movement of fuel and other goods.

Residents of Korhogo and Odienne say there have been periodic gasoline shortages since the 2002 rebellion. Fuel for these towns has come from Togo and Benin, crossing into Ivory Coast overland from Burkina Faso. But residents of the border town in Niangoloko in Burkina Faso say they are seeing a shortage of fuel in the area as well.

In Korhogo, Issouf Ouattara, who is in charge of social services in the town for the New Forces, told VOA they do not know what has caused the gasoline shortages.

Ouattara says businesses and aid organizations there have been calling him to find out why gasoline has run out. He says much of Korhogo has come to a standstill.

He says the roads are practically empty. He says many people who need their motorcycles or cars to get to work are stuck.

Ouattara says street vendors are selling one liter of gasoline for 3,000 CFA Francs, the local currency, or the equivalent of about $7. That is about six times the normal price.

In Korhogo and Odienne, residents say ambulances are not affected by the gasoline shortages, because they use diesel fuel.