Protests rage in Niger’s oil refinery city


Protesters burned tyres and ransacked buildings in Niger’s second-biggest city, Zinder, police said, continuing three days of violent demonstrations linked to high fuel prices.

At least two people have been killed in the clashes, which started after authorities detained an activist who organised a protest over high fuel prices on Nov. 28, during the opening ceremony of Niger’s new oil refinery.
“Lots of people have come out, armed with batons among other things, some of them students, and they’ve burned down the local Ecobank branch. They are moving in small groups and they have even ransacked a police station and several businesses,” a police official said, asking not to be named, Reuters reports.

Niger’s government called for calm in a televised address late on Wednesday after a student was killed when he was hit on the head by a tear gas canister and a woman was killed by a stray bullet while standing at her front door.
“What has happened will not go unpunished,” government spokesman Marou Amadou said on state television. “Niger needs peace and stability.”

Residents of the impoverished West African state, which started oil production and opened the Zinder refinery to process it last month, complain that fuel is unaffordable.

The new refinery was meant to bring prices down, but the government said this week it would have to sell off stockpiles of imported fuel before the cheaper fuel from the plant went on the market.

President Issoufou Mahamadou was elected in March in polls organised by a military junta that had toppled Mamadou Tandja in 2009.