By Peter Saramba Ongiri
MWANZA, Tanzania (AA) - Twin specters of rising prices and security fears are casting a shadow over the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan for Tanzanian Muslims.
The month’s fasting comes amid a nearly two-month sugar shortage, with prices skyrocketing from $1 to $6 per kilogram.
Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said last week Tanzania needs 420,000 tons of sugar per year, but the local production capacity is just 300,000.
Last month the government had to import 70,000 tons of sugar to curb the shortage, but it brought no price relief.
The shortage stems from a government decision in early March to ban sugar imports to protect local factories.
Price hikes in rice, meat, fish, wheat, and maize flour are also being felt.
The holy month is also marked by security concerns among Muslims following a May 18 attack by persons unknown at the Rahman Mosque in Mwanza, in which three people were hacked to death, including Imam Feruz Ismail.
In a similar attack, eight people were hacked to death in a raid on a village in the Tanga region, Northern Tanzania.
These incidents led the Mwanza regional Muslim cleric, Sheikh Mohamed Balla, to appeal to state security organs to strengthen security in and around places of worship to assure Muslims’ safety during Ramadan.
Mwanza Regional Commissioner John Mongella and area Police Commander Ahmed Msangi assured Muslims of their safety during the holy month.
Apart from cultivating self-discipline and directing one's heart away from distractions, as well as cleansing one's soul by freeing it of impurities, Muslims in Tanzania also give gifts, food, and humanitarian assistance to those in need during the holy month of Ramadan.