Thursday, September 07, 2006

Life is expensive

Life is surprisingly expensive in Khartoum. OK, I have bought some unnecessary luxuries, but just to give you an idea, coffee (imported), cost 2500 dinars (ie $12). A little pot of nutella (the one in the glass) is also $12. I wanted to get a taxi the other night into the centre of town, but when I found out it would cost more than $10, I decided to wait for the driver to take me.

The driver is Eritrean, and has refugee status here in Sudan. I started chatting to him in the car. “So, how long have you been here?” I asked. 2 years, he said. “And do you like it?” (I was trying to start pleasant chit chat) He paused and then said “I have to admit, I do not”. And he smiled sadly. I smiled back, trying to look understanding. There are a few Eritreans in the office and they were all telling their stories the other day; describing who had walked for the longest to get here, and laughing about who was the toughest.

But if I think that life is expensive here, it must be really hard for a low-income Sudanese, or Eritrean family. In fact, the rising cost of living has been the focus of recent demonstrations – fuel and sugar prices have gone up. I haven’t actually seen any of the demonstrations, but I heard about them from the drivers (good conversational skills are thankfully a pre-requisite for the job). Fuel prices have gone up by 50% apparently, and if anything is going to cause general dissatisfaction then that is. I was at the UN security briefing in the morning, and we had to finish early in order to let people get back to their offices before the demonstrations got under way. The week before there had also been demonstrations, but against the possible UN force to be deployed in Darfur. I didn’t hear much about that though, as last week's security briefing was cancelled. The reason? Er, because of security. Great. I’ll just stay at home then.

So while the government is busy organising anti-UN demos, the opposition is rallying around the rising fuel prices. Only time will tell which issue proves to be of greater interest to the average man on the street.