Somalia exploded in a wave of riots on Monday in protest at rocketing food price rises.
According to news agencies a demonstration, including many women and children, broke out in the capital Mogadishu after food traders refused to accept the old 1,000 shilling note.
The protests grew to tens of thousands, with protesters attacking merchants, buses and cars. According to witnesses, troops and shopkeepers opened fire, killing at least two people.
The country has been hit by the global rise in food prices. Staples such as corn meal have doubled in price, while a sack of rice has jumped from £13 to £23 – beyond the pocket of most ordinary people.
One protester told Irin, the United Nations (UN) news agency, that “the only thing we have left is the old 1,000 shilling note and the traders have refused it. They only take US dollars. This means we don’t get to eat. For us it is a matter of life and death, for them it is just business.”
The latest protests comes as Somalis face a barrage of attacks by Ethiopian troops and US warplanes which have killed scores of people.
On Sunday mass demonstrations broke out after Aden Hashi Ayro, a leader of the Somali resistance was killed in an air raid. Eleven civilians were killed in the same blast.
Somalia, labelled by the US as the “third front in the war on terror”, was invaded by Ethiopian troops in January 2007 following a mass uprising that ousted warlords who had fought for control over different parts of the country since the government collapsed in 1991.
For a brief time the country was ruled by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), a grassroots organisation that grew out of the rebellion. The US labelled the UIC as the “Somali Taliban” and said it had ties to Al Qaida. Neither allegation is true, but Somalia sits on the strategic Horn of Africa making it a key target for US imperialism.
The Ethiopian invasion has created one of the biggest humanitarian crises in Africa.
According to the UN some 2.6 million people are in urgent need of food aid. This is an increase of 40 percent since the beginning of the year.
A UN monitoring team that recently returned from the country has warned of the danger of famine.
“The urban poor are struggling to cover their basic needs as the cost of a minimum food basket is now more than double what it was last year,” UN monitors said.
“The number of people in need of assistance could reach up to 3.5 million or half the total population of the country by the end of the year.”