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West African Governments Try to Stem More Price Riots

Governments across West Africa are working hard to avoid more protests about the soaring cost of living. As VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our bureau in Dakar, governments are reducing prices where they can and searching for long-term solutions as well.

Senegal's prime minister, Cheikh Aguibou Soumare, is trying to quell the unrest in his country as a result of rising food and fuel costs.

He says government money is being spent to cut taxes on salaries and open fixed price stores.

He adds that the government is talking to rice importers to see how they can lower their prices for Senegal's many rice consumers.

Soumare says the government is developing a program of self-sufficiency for growing rice to resolve what he called a very dysfunctional system.

In Senegal's main market in the capital Dakar, rice seller NDongo Diouf says it is getting harder and harder to deal with importers.

He says they jack prices up more than necessary, taking advantage of an already bad situation.

Diouf says he now hides rice bags for his best customers and for his family as well, because they are getting harder and harder to find, but he has no confidence in Senegal one day being able to make good quality rice.

Night school student Antoinette, 20, is sifting through a 50-kilogram bag of rice, which now costs between $35 and $40, compared to about $25 a few months ago.

She says the price for a package of spaghetti recently jumped in one day from 70 cents to double that amount.

She says she believes the only way for Senegalese to survive in what she calls this globalized oil-dependent world is to start eating and producing local food.

She says even if it is lower quality, Senegalese know how to cook, and they will manage to make it taste nice. She says another benefit is that local rice is healthier as well.